top of page

Cognitive Domains: Attention

Picture yourself walking outside near a busy intersection. There are lots of cars driving by, flashing advertisements, the smell of street food, and people yelling from several storefronts. However, you’ve determined it’s important to determine your location so you “tune out” most of what’s happening around you and choose to read the street signs. You’ve just used your cognitive domain of attention.

Attention in this context refers to your ability to block out certain information in your environment in order to focus on a something specific. With attention, you’re determining what isn’t relevant and getting your mind to actively process just what is relevant.


William James in his 1950s work “The Principles of Psychology explains attention as:

“the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought… It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others…”


In other words, attention involves your active focus and concentration.


How Attention is Defined

The cognitive domain of Attention is defined as follows by the APA Dictionary of Psychology:

A state in which cognitive resources are focused on certain aspects of the environment rather than on others and the central nervous system is in a state of readiness to respond to stimuli. Because it has been presumed that human beings do not have an infinite capacity to attend to everything—focusing on certain items at the expense of others—much of the research in this field has been devoted to discerning which factors influence attention and to understanding the neural mechanisms that are involved in the selective processing of information. For example, past experience affects perceptual experience (we notice things that have meaning for us), and some activities (e.g., reading) require conscious participation (i.e., voluntary attention). However, attention can also be captured (i.e., directed involuntarily) by qualities of stimuli in the environment, such as intensity, movement, repetition, contrast, and novelty.

You can view the original source here.


Types of Attention – The Subdomains

When speaking of Attention as a cognitive domain, it in fact contains various subdomains. It’s not just one type of attention, but many more specific categories. They are:

  1. spatial attention, also called distributed attention – when a person directs their attention to part of a scene

  2. focusing attention – actively concentrating on something while excluding other things

  3. continuous attention/sustained attention – for a long period of time

  4. visual perception – to do with visual sensations

  5. decentering – your perception versus other people’s perception

  6. concentration

  7. visuo-motor skills

  8. coordination

  9. joint attention – attention with multiple people

  10. reading comprehension/verbal comprehension

  11. body awareness

  12. breaking routine – changing a behavior that you do without conscious control


How to Improve Your Attention


With Cognishape, we’ve designed specific tasks that can help you to improve your attention.   Here’s an example of one of these tasks:

“Try focusing on the temperature of the air coming through your nose when you exhale. Feel it above your upper lip. Take a few breaths to identify the hit.”

Was it cold/hot/warm?

Have you noticed it before?”


This task works to improve body awareness and focusing attention.

Want to Know about other Cognitive Domains?

iPhone 8 in 5 colors_IMG-4110.png
Orange and Yellow Gradient Modern Business Zoom Virtual Background (4).png

Cognishape started when two entrepreneurs joined forces with an expert clinical psychologist. Her career centered on identifying cognitive abilities that decline with age and finding easy, low-cost interventions to help. 


Who We Are

App Store.png
Google Play.png
bottom of page