The Cognitive Process and Formal Models of Human Attentions

The Cognitive Process and Formal Models of Human Attentions

Yingxu Wang (International Institute of Cognitive Informatics and Cognitive Computing (ICIC), University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada), Shushma Patel (Faculty of Business, London South Bank University, London, UK) and Dilip Patel (Faculty of Business, London South Bank University, London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/ijssci.2013010103
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Attention is a complex mental function of humans in order to capture and serve the basic senses of vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, as well as internal motivations and perceptions. This paper presents a formal model and a cognitive process for rigorously explaining human attentions. Cognitive foundations of attentions and their relationships with consciousness and other perception processes are explored. The closed loop of attentions is identified that encompasses event capture and behavior reaction. Events for attention are classified into the categories of external stimuli and internal motivations. Behaviors as corresponding responses of attentions encompass recurrent, temporary, and reflex actions. Mathematical models of attentions are created as a foundation for rigorously describing the cognitive process of attentions in denotational mathematics. A wide range of applications of the unified attention model are identified in cognitive informatics, cognitive computing, and computational intelligence toward the mimic and simulation of human attention and perception in cognitive computers, cognitive robotics, and cognitive systems.
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1. Introduction

Attention is a hybrid conscious and subconscious mental process of the brain. It is a core feature of human intelligence that maintains a long chain of thinking threads and a long period of focus on highly complex cognitive processes. Human attentions as a form of perceptive action intelligence are far beyond those of any other advanced species. Rees and his colleagues viewed attention as a conscious selection characterized by a particular object, a train of thought, or a location in space (Rees et al., 1997). Robbins classified the functions of attention into the types of orienting to sensory stimuli, selecting the contents of consciousness, and maintaining alertness (Robbins, 1997). Various perspectives on the nature of human attentions have been proposed such as the filter model (Broadbent, 1958), the attenuator model (Treisman, 1960), the transparent transformation model (Lachman et al., 1979), and the pertinence model (Norman & Shallice, 1986).

  • Definition 1:Attention is a perceptive process of the brain that focuses the mind or the perceptive engine on external stimuli, internal motivations, and/or threads of thought by selective concentration and proper responses.

Attention is a cognitive sign of consciousness. It is one of the top-level human action intelligence in order to carry out proper perception, thinking, and related actions. The driving power of human attentions is the perceptive engine embodied by the brain stem and cerebellum for sensory and consciousness, respectively (Wang, 2013a, 2013d). Attention is dominantly manipulated by the eyes, because they are the receptor of more than 70% of external stimuli and information to the brain (Coaen et al., 1994; Marieb, 1992; Sternberg, 1998). Attention is triggered by all five primary sensory receptors such as vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, as well as derived internal senses of position, time, and motion, at the sensation layer. Attention also interacts with consciousness and other perceptive processes in the brain (Kihlstrom, 1987; Wang, 2012f, 20012g; Wang et al., 2006).

Attention is a cognitive process at the perception layer according to the Layered Reference Model of the Brain (LRMB) as shown in Figure 1 (Wang et al., 2006). To be a counterpart of the inference intelligence, attention is one of the eight perception processes of the brain at the highest layer of human action intelligence, closely interacting with consciousness (Wang, 2012f), motivations/emotions/attitudes (Wang, 2007e), imagination, sense of spatiality (Wang, 2009c), and sense of motion (Wang, 2009c). Attention is supported by lower layer functions such as those at the sensation, action, and memory layers. It also intensively interacts with higher layer life functions and mental processes in the brain such as the meta-cognitive, inference, and complex cognitive processes that form the inference intelligence.

Figure 1.

Attention and the layered reference model of the brain (LRMB)

The LRMB model establishes a dynamic context of the brain as an extremely intricate real-time intelligence system where attention serves as the event capturer and response dispatcher. It is noteworthy in LRMB that most inherited life functions are subconscious or unconscious. However, most acquired life functions are conscious. Although we cannot intentionally control the subconscious and unconscious processes in the brain, we do autonomously apply them repetitively every second in any conscious processes.

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