Term of Art: Attention

“attention: The focus of consciousness on something in the environment, or on a sensation or an idea. Attention includes a number of elements that are essential to all activities, including

  • arousal: being ready to receive stimuli
  • vigilance: being able to select stimuli from those presented over a broad period of times
  • persistence or continuity: being able to sustain a mental effort and select stimuli that are presented often
  • monitoring: checking for and correcting errors

The length of time in which a child can pay attention to something (the attention span) increases with age, interest, and intelligence level.

Breakdowns in these different elements can cause a variety of problems. A breakdown in vigilance, for example, might cause someone to select or focus on the wrong details. A breakdown in monitoring might lead to repeated careless errors. Persistence or continuity is necessary for a complex task to be completed.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

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