filter theory

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A theory of attention proposed in 1958 by the English psychologist Donald E(ric) Broadbent (1926–93) according to which there exists a central processor (2) with a limited capacity that can select only one sensory input channel at a time and can switch between input channels no more than about twice per second, information in an unattended channel being held in short-term memory for a few seconds. Evidence for the theory was provided by split-span experiments in which pairs of digits were presented simultaneously to both ears at a rate of up to two per second, and listeners invariably recalled them ear by ear rather than pair by pair, evidently switching attention from one ear to the other, but later findings necessitated refinements of the theory. See also attenuation theory, cocktail party phenomenon, bottleneck theory, selective attention.

Subjects: Psychology.

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