As Pashler (1998, p. 1) pointed out, "Attention has long posed a major challenge for psychologists." Historically, the concept of "attention" was treated as important by many philosophers and psychologists in the late 19th century. However, it fell into disrepute, because the behaviourists regarded all internal processes with the utmost suspicion. Attention became fashionable again following the publication of Broadbent's book Perception and Communication in 1958, and has remained an important topic ever since.

Attention is most commonly used to refer to selectivity of processing. This was the sense emphasised by William James (1890, pp. 403-404):

Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalisation, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence.

What is the relationship between attention and consciousness? Baars (1997) argued that access to consciousness is controlled by attentional mechanisms. Consider, for example, sentences such as, "We look in order to see" or "We listen in order to hear". According to Baars (1997, p. 364), "The distinction is between selecting an experience and being conscious of the selected event. In everyday language, the first word of each pair ["look"; "listen"] involves attention; the second word ["see"; "hear"] involves consciousness." In other words, attention resembles choosing a television channel and consciousness resembles the picture on the screen.

William James (1890) distinguished between "active" and "passive" modes of attention. Attention is active when controlled in a top-down way by the individual's goals, whereas it is passive when controlled in a bottom-up way by external stimuli (e.g., a loud noise). According to Yantis (1998, p. 252), "Stimulus-driven attentional control is both faster and more potent than goal-driven attentional control." The reason is that it typically requires processing effort to decide which stimulus is most relevant to the current goal. We have implied that there is a unitary attentional system. However, this is improbable. As Allport (1993, pp. 203-204) pointed out:

It seems no more plausible that there should be one unique mechanism, or computational resource, as the causal basis of all attentional phenomena than that there should be a unitary causal basis of thought, or perception, or of any other traditional category of folk psychology...Reference to attention (or to

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