In our daily lives, we encounter many situations that require us to make a selection. Think about seeing five dogs coming up while you are walking down the street. Would you be able to look at all the dogs at the same time or would you focus only on one dog that grabs your attention the most? Focusing only on one dog seems more reasonable. As touched upon in this example, we tend to direct our attention to the most attention-grabbing thing to us, we selectively attend to these things.

What is Selective Attention?

Our brain is incapable of focusing on all stimuli at the time. Selective attention proves this inability to perceive two stimuli in the environment concurrently. In detail, selective attention is also vital since it ensures that you complete all your key duties. Selective attention permits your mind to prioritize your needs, which is an extremely useful tool for achieving goals, staying safe, and executing simple chores. We tend to focus on one stimulus while ignoring the other. When an individual is exposed to more than one stimulus, his or her response occurs sequentially rather than simultaneously. According to psychologists, we improve our ability to integrate the thing we pay attention to and eventually we develop a better understanding of it.

There is research about the biological side of this attention process. When we selectively direct our attention to something, our sensory cortex which is responsible for that specific modality of perception, shows an increase in its activity. According to neuroimaging studies about selective attention in auditory or visual tasks, this increase happens compared to when we are not attending. According to the biased competition model, the effects of selective attention are related to our preferences. The biased competition model of visual attention is composed of notions of competition and selectivity. Visual stimuli compete for our resources because our visual processing ability is limited. For instance, if consumers need to choose a bottle of shampoo from a supermarket shelf, they will not be able to look at all the shampoos on the shelf at the same time.

Selective Attention in Advertising

In advertising, selective attention is important because advertisers care about what consumers pay attention to. If the consumer is an individual who likes to keep up with the latest advertisements about arts, the advertiser would like to know this. Likewise, the advertiser would like to know if the consumer is the type of individual who is likely to attend an art-related that she/he saw from Twitter. Therefore, advertisers are continuously looking for different ways to connect with consumers to grab their attention. They want our focused attention, not our unfocused attention that will result in forgetting about it later. We are exposed to at least 500 to 1500 advertisements each day because of the rise of the use of social media and its effect on consumer marketing. Think about all the advertisings that you encounter when you want to scroll down on Instagram. It is not possible to remember all of them. Hence, the consumer ignores most of these advertising and only remembers the ones that attract her/his interest. Thus, if a standard advertisement was failed to capture the attention of the consumer, all the money and time spent on creating and distributing it comes to nothing. If the advertisement includes a brand ambassador for being more noticeable, the expense of the advertisement would be enormous. As a result, the advertisement must be special and demand the selective attention of targeted consumers.

As mentioned above, stimuli that are related to a current demand are more likely to be noticed. For instance, an individual who is motivated to buy a car is more likely to notice car-related advertisements than an individual who is interested to buy a book. As a result, awaited stimuli are more likely to be seen by individuals. In a computer store, we are more likely to notice computers than phones since we do not expect the store to have phones. Also, we are more likely to detect stimuli with big changes in comparison to their regular extent. For instance, if an advertisement offers a new house with a discount of 50% from its original price, this advertisement is more likely to be noticed than another one about adding one more month to its payment installment with its original price. Therefore, we tend to selectively attend to the stimuli with more discount meaning more adjustments to its original condition. Another issue about selective attention and stimuli is that individuals are affected by stimuli that are unexpected, as offered in the pop-ups of a video site or over the phone by an unknown caller, even when they screen out much of the surrounding stimuli like the video being watched or sound while the phone being picked up. It is important to present advertisements with these selective attention filters in order to grab consumers’ attention. 

According to a study, for measuring individuals’ visual attention, individuals focus on local gaze duration for advertisement elements. There are three identified segments of consumers with qualitatively different attention patterns defined as scanning, initial focus, and sustained attention. Sustained attention means the ability to focus on a single stimulus while ignoring others for an extended length of time. After a short length of time, our attention fades, and we must readjust and concentrate in order to maintain continuous attention. Consumers do not always use their sustained attention when they encounter an advertisement due to being required most of our cognitive capacity and determination. Thus, targeting selective attention considering distracting stimuli is a better way for successful advertisements.

Visual attention habits change between sections, like involvement, brand attitude, and advertisement recalls do. Diverse components of stimuli have different effects on visual attention patterns. The differences between the average local gaze duration of individuals across these three segments suggest that the main attention sequence is related to the headline and/or graphic, the image if there is any, and the body text; eye fixation sequence analysis are the only way to back up this claim. Research on eye fixation sequences, as well as the effects of specific eye fixations, can be utilized to figure out how visual attention patterns connect to higher-order cognitive processes as systemic decision making. According to these, if individuals with using their sustained attention, spend more time looking at the pages closest to the target advertisement because they spend more time reading the magazine or looking at the screen. 

The Effect of Emotions 

As mentioned, the selection is a fundamental part of human life. We choose specific objects to be the subject of our actions in a variety of settings, from markets to museums, while ignoring her objects. Two distinct but linked processes are present in this action. Coordination between selective attention and emotional systems is required to smoothly relocate behavior toward or away from certain items. During selective attention and emotional appraisal tasks, brain areas common to both systems are selectively active, according to recent human neuroimaging research. Images of furious faces, for instance, capture and retain attention more than emotionally neutral or unfamiliar stimuli. In an attentional blink test that requires quick sequential attentional processing, unpleasant words are more easily identified than neutral words. Repetition, non figural stimulus qualities such as brightness, and preceding presentation of other emotionally salient stimuli have all been shown to influence the emotional appraisal of stimuli. Consequently, emotions play an important role in selective attention. 

Dealing with Complex Products

As stated, research has proposed that consumers are not passive recipients of stimuli in advertisements and that they selectively attend to product attributes based on the benefits they seek. Furthermore, today’s consumer researchers argue that purposeful elements relating to the individual or the scenario influence attention to product information. These claims about selective attention appear to have a lot of implications for advertisers. Numerous research has shown that the importance of specific product benefits or selection criteria has a significant impact on consumer information acquisition, judgments, and decisions. Individual difference variable habitual benefit salience is defined as the persistent readiness with which specific benefits concerning a given product category are recalled. According to a study, benefit salience influences selective attention to product attributes, and benefit salience is a function of habitual individual differences as well as situational elements such as the advantages specified by-product usage context. If environmental factors do not substantially constrain an individual’s attention during rapid information processing, the pre-existing benefits that the individual is likely to access on a habitual basis will guide selective attention to product features. The influence of habitual individual differences in benefit salience will be significantly reduced if situational circumstances orient attention toward product features relevant for achieving contextual benefits. This again touches upon the issue of what the consumer likes and would like to see in an advertisement. Thus, research about eye gaze and areas of interest show importance. 


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