Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Attention Getting

Attention getting is more than just the orienting reflex, it is the "initial orientation or alerting to a stimulus." Though this may be considered an automatic act, in fact it requires complex active thought processing. Attention getting is reliant on the qualitative nature of the stimulus. The stimulus must be stong enough to elicit a response.

DeGangi and Porges (1990) explain the types of stimuli that are attention getting vary according to past experiences of the individual, what they already know, individual reactivity to sensory stimuli, and what an individual has determined to be important to them. A hungry person may be more apt to pay attention to the smell of food than the sounds surrounding them in a traffic jam!

Attention getting is important to psychologists, particularily developmental psychologists because of its role in learning. A child's chosen attention getting stimuli can guide his/her learning abilities. "A child who learns better through the auditory channel will orient more readily to a song about body parts than a picture of a body."


  1. DeGangi, G., & Porges, S. (1990). Neuroscience foundations of human performance. Rockville, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.