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1.2 How do you read?

A good way of getting started on developing your reading and note-taking skills is to think about how you read now.

Activity 1

The short extract reproduced below is taken from The Scotsman and is a journalistic piece of wr
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3.1 Introduction

The binding of features emerges as being a very significant process when displays are brief, because there is so little time in which to unite them. With normal viewing, such as when you examine the letters and words on this page, it is not obvious to introspection that binding is taking place. However, if, as explained above, it is a necessary precursor to conscious awareness, the process must also occur when we examine long-lived visual displays. Researchers have attempted to demonstrate th
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1.5 Summary of Section 1

The auditory system is able to process sounds in such a way that, although several may be present simultaneously, it is possible to focus upon the message of interest. However, in experiments on auditory attention, there have been contradictory results concerning the fate of the unattended material:

  • The auditory system processes mixed sounds in such a way that it is possible to focus upon a single wanted message.

  • Unattended material a
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1.4 Eavesdropping on the unattended message

It was not long before researchers devised more complex ways of testing Broadbent's theory of attention, and it soon became clear that it could not be entirely correct. Even in the absence of formal experiments, common experiences might lead one to question the theory. An oft-cited example is the cocktail party effect. Imagine you are attending a noisy party, but your auditory location system is working wonderfully, enabling you to focus upon one particular conversation. Suddenly, from
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1.3 Attending to sounds

From the earlier sections, you will appreciate that the auditory system is able to separate different, superimposed sounds on the basis of their different source directions. This makes it possible to attend to any one sound without confusion, and we have the sensation of moving our ‘listening attention’ to focus on the desired sound. For example, as I write this I can listen to the quiet hum of the computer in front of me, or swing my attention to the bird song outside the window to my ri
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1.1 Introduction

To cover some of the concept of attention (we have only a unit, and there are whole books on the subject) I shall follow an approximately historical sequence, showing how generations of psychologists have tackled the issues and gradually refined and developed their theories. You will discover that initially there seemed to them to be only one role for attention, but that gradually it has been implicated in an ever-widening range of mental processes. As we work through the subject, two basic i
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • understand different cognitive psychological aproaches used to examine such forms of attention as attention to regions of space, attention to objects and attention for action;

  • summarise the different cognitive psychological approaches undera fairly abstract definition of the term;

  • know how ideas about attention have changed and diversified over the last fifty years and how well they have stood up to ex
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Introduction

For many of us the concept of attention may have rather negative connotations. At school we were told to pay attention, making us all too aware that it was not possible to listen to the teacher while at the same time being lost in more interesting thoughts. Neither does it seem possible to listen effectively to two different things at the same time. How many parents with young children would love to be able to do that! One could be excused for feeling that evolution has let us down by failing
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3.5.2 Pre-post test studies

Another method for evaluating the effectiveness of a therapy is to use a pre-post test design. This is where a group of people is assessed before and after a programme of intervention. Ideally, these people would be matched to a control group who are also tested twice, but do not receive the same (or any) intervention during that period. However, as with randomised controlled trials, there are ethical issues if it becomes clear that the intervention is having an adverse affect on the e
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3.2 Behavioural approaches

Behavioural therapies are based on principles of classical conditioning and operant conditioning (the latter being more properly referred to as behaviour modification therapy). Operant conditioning is about the presentation of a reinforcement being dependent (contingent) on the appearance of a given behaviour. Based on this idea, Skinner (1953) suggested that sometimes ‘abnormal’ behaviour is the result of bad contingency management, where inappropriate behaviours have been
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3.1.1 Treatment or management?

In the preceding paragraph you will notice that we talked generally about the treatment of conditions, but referred to ‘managing’ dyslexia. Why did we do this? It relates to the following important general issues:

Is treatment (i.e. intervention) warranted? We mentioned this issue when we were discussing sociocultural or personal distress based definitions of abnormality. Intervention is not always desi
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2.4.1 Organisation of brain cells

Some findings that do appear to be more specific to dyslexia are various microscopic anomalies in the actual organisation of brain cells, reported from post-mortem studies (Galaburda et al., 1985). These include collections of slightly ‘misplaced’ cells (called ectopias) and some minor disordering of the regular layering of cells in the cortex. They are often particularly concentrated in left hemisphere regions involved in language processing, although their distribution varies con
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2.3.4 Lateralisation

It has long been suspected that unusual patterns of cerebral lateralisation (i.e. the ‘division of labour’ between left and right hemispheres of the brain) may have some connection with dyslexia. Early researchers noticed an apparent excess of left-handedness in children with specific reading difficulties (and their relatives). However, most dyslexic people are in fact right-handed, and most left-handed people are not dyslexic. Nonetheless, large-scale analyses of the research find
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2.3.2 Why are boys more vulnerable to some conditions?

In some conditions that affect more males than females (such as colourblindness), the explanation has been found to lie in genes on the X chromosome. Most females have two X chromosomes (one inherited from each parent) while most males have an XY combination. This means that if someone should inherit an X-linked gene predisposing to a particular condition, compensation for this will be easier for a female (whose other X chromosome may have a ‘normal’ copy of the gene) than for a male. How
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2.3.1 Sex differences

An intriguing aspect of dyslexia is the apparent excess of males who are affected. This could simply reflect referral bias – a tendency for boys to be identified as dyslexic more readily than girls. In the past, society's expectations of boys and girls were very different with respect to educational achievement. There is now much less overt stereotyping of this kind, but there may still be other reasons why dyslexia might be more readily identified in boys. For example, eviden
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2.3 Biological explanations of dyslexia

Some physical characteristics appear to be ‘typical’ of people with reading difficulties, although their relevance is debated. These include being male, tendencies towards left-handedness or mixed-handedness (i.e. inconsistency of hand preference across different tasks), and a variety of neurological 'soft’ signs and minor physical anomalies. We will consider each of these in detail in the sections that follow. There is also some evidence that people with dyslexia (and the
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1.5.2 Discrepancy definitions

The label is given if there is a discrepancy between perceived potential to learn to read (as indicated by general ability) and actual level of reading achievement.

The most common way of diagnosing dyslexia is to look for a discrepancy between someone's general ability as measured by an IQ assessment and his or her performance on standardised measures of reading and spelling. However, there are
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1.3 Overview of ‘normality’

Before we can specify what might be ‘abnormal’, we must first have a clear idea of what we mean by ‘normality’. However, within psychology this is much more difficult than it first appears. As our discussion has shown, psychological ‘normality’ can be defined in terms of:

  • what is ‘average’ or ‘typical’ with respect to statistical frequency;

  • ‘lack of disability’ – where ‘normality’ is defined by reference
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1.2.4 Personal distress

Another way of defining psychological ‘abnormality’ is to ask whether certain behaviours or styles of functioning cause distress to the individual concerned. Think about your response to what you consider to be ‘normal’ alcohol consumption. Perhaps you specified a maximum number of units per day or week? If so, why did you do this? Is it because of the health problems associated with excessive drinking, or because of its association with antisocial behaviour? Some of you may believe t
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Module team

Open University staff

Dr Dorothy Miell, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences (Course Team Chair)

Dr Paul Anand, Lecturer in Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences

Peter Barnes, Lecturer in Centre for Childhood, Development and Learning, Faculty of Education and Language Studies

Pam Berry, Key Compositor

Dr Nicola Brace, Lecturer in Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences

Dr Nick Braisby, Lectur
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