When considering how the brain allows focused attention, it’s important to first describe what is referred to as the dual processing model of attention — in other words, how the brain processes information in two ways.
The model says attention is either automatic or controlled. In automatic processing cognition occurs with little effort, is automatic given a specific stimulus, and doesn’t interfere with other mental processes. Controlled processing is cognitively expensive, relies mainly on serial processing and is responsible for self-regulation.
Focusing attention is dependent on top-down processing while automatic attention is more focused on bottom-up processing. Bottom-up processing is mainly triggered by the presence of environmental stimuli, while top-down processing is dependent on information in memory, including expectation of what might occur while engaging in the task.
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