Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Attention Holding

Attention holding is the "maintenance of attention when a stimulus is intricate or novel." Stimuli that hold our attention must be both novel and complex in order to encourage information processing. Attention holding is measured by how long one engages in a cognitive activity involving that stimulus.

Attention holding is important because of its role in learning. If an activity or stimulus is moderately complex, the person will expend energy in information processing. In other words, the person will expend energy in learning. Unfortunately, this can be complicated by poor motivation. Low motivation may present a challenge as the psychologist (or other professional) must determine if the decreased motivation is due to sensory processing problems, cognitive impairment, or other learning-related problems (of which poor attention holding may be identified).


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