Lecturer's Précis - Broadbent (1958)

"Perception and Communication" [Extract - the "Filter" Model of Attention]

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First published online 10:51 BST 6th May 2002, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [2.0 - copyright] 09:00 BST 4th July 2018.


Broadbent (1958)

See firstly the supporting commentary for this material.


Broadbent's (1958) "Filter" Model of Attention: This diagram represents the flow of sensory information through a number of processing stages, ranged sequentially from left-to-right. Several simultaneous sensory inputs are allowed for (parallel arrows, far left), all competing for central selective filter (pink box, left of centre). This filter is capable of selecting for further processing (ie. "attending to") only one of the competing inputs, and the one selected is passed along the limited capacity channel to two substantially more advanced subsystems. The first of these is the system for varying output until some input is secured (the higher of the two blue boxes), which is in turn in direct communication with the body's motor system (the effectors, top right). This module is responsible for initiating and maintaining behaviour towards a particular goal. The second subsystem is the store of conditional probabilities of past events (the lower of the two blue boxes), and is responsible, via the feedback pathway shown, for modulating the decisions being made by the filter towards those inputs which past experience indicates are associated with success at the goal in question (or similar goals). Another feedback pathway recycles material which is at risk of being lost due to the limited capacity of the filter and its channel back into short term memory storage.

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This version Copyright © 2002, Derek J. Smith.



Broadbent, D.E. (1958). Perception and Communication. London: Pergamon.