MCAT Content / Attention / Selective Attention

Selective attention

Topic: Attention

Selective attention is the ability to choose and concentrate on relevant stimuli. It is a cognitive process that makes it possible to focus on relevant stimuli and respond to it.

Selective attention can be thought of as the allocation of limited processing resources: your brain can only devote attention to a limited number of stimuli. Selective attention is demonstrated when many stimuli are present, and a person ignores the non-task-related stimuli. It is the process of focusing on a particular object in an environment for a set time whilst tuning out unimportant details or tasks. Selective attention is like a spotlight; we can use it to focus on details that are important whilst ignoring irrelevant information in our perceptions.


Practice Questions

Khan Academy


MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Section Bank P/S Section Passage 1 Question 4

Section Bank P/S Section Passage 1 Question 5

Section Bank P/S Section Passage 1 Question 6

Key Points

• Selective attention is the ability to focus on individual stimuli whilst ignoring irrelevant stimuli in the subject’s perception

Key Terms

attention: selective concentration on a discrete stimulus while ignoring other perceivable stimuli

selective attention: the ability to focus with background stimuli

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