A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

The meaning of “attention”

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on March 17, 2006

The meaning of abstraction was explained very abstractly, that is… no mechanism was given of how would one ignore some of the things, in order to “be left” with a specific thing.

But seems, that we can actually point to a word that points to specific mechanism through which we can do abstraction – Attention.
Here is the sense of attention, as brought/explained to us through different dictionaries, which refer to such faculty.

WordNet:

  • The process whereby a person concentrates on some features of the environment to the (relative) exclusion of others.

Wikipedia

  • Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one thing while
    ignoring other things. Examples include listening carefully to what someone is saying while ignoring other conversations in the
    room (e.g. the cocktail party problem, Cherry, 1953).

Think of it… If there is big red ball in front of you… You may put your attention on its size, and in such way abstract from everything BUT the size. Or the interesting patch on the ball may draw your attention, and in such way it will abstract from everything BUT the patch. You can also focus on the upcoming meeting, or can concentrate your thoughts on the issue of the existence of Santa Claus, and in such way abstract from the ball.

Three points to make there…

The first two is really a note to myself, and question to you.

  1. Is there a difference of meaning of those different words, “focus on”, “put attention on”, “concentrate on”, and if there is… what does it mean ?
  2. We use “focus on”, “put your attention on”, etc… for a more complex types of acts. (e.g. “focus on this project now”). Is that the same sense, metaphorical usage, or what?

And the third point is that there is a distinction one can make about attention. It can be:

  1. Done on purpose. E.g. when someone says to us “look at that clown” we can focus on the clown on purpose.
  2. Or something can draw our attention. E.g. A clown jumping into our face will probably draw our attention.

And for the end, here is very interesting explanation of the meaning of “attention” (take it as a hint of what is to come, or not):

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms

  • the act or state of attending : the application
    of the mind to any object of sense or thought
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