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5.3 Event-related potentials

When a sense organ (eye, ear, etc.) receives a stimulus, the event eventually causes neurons to ‘fire’ (i.e. produce electrical discharges) in the receiving area of the brain. The information is sent on from these first sites to other brain areas. With appropriate apparatus and techniques it is possible to record the electrical signals, using electrodes attached to the scalp. The electrical potentials recorded are called event-related potentials (ERPs), since they dependably follow
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3.3 Non-target effects

Treisman's feature integration theory has been very influential, but it does not appear to explain all experimental observations, and there have been alternative accounts of the feature-binding process. Duncan and Humphreys (1989) reported effects which do not fit too well within the basic Treisman account. They required participants to search for the letter ‘L’ (the target) within a number of ‘Ts’ (the non-targets). You may get a feel for the relative difficulty of different v
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3.2 Serial and parallel search

Examine the three sections of Figure 5 and in each case try to get a feel for how long it takes you to find the ‘odd one out’. The figure is a monochrome version of the usual form of these stimuli you can see a coloured example in colour Plate 3.

Click 'view document' to open Plate 3: Typical stimuli used in Triesman’s experiments
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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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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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References

Aaron, P.G., Wleklinski, M. and Wills, C. (1993) ‘Developmental dyslexia as a cognitive style’, in Joshi, R.M. and Leong, C.K. (eds) Reading Disabilities: Diagnosis and Component Processes, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Adams, M.J. (1990) Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Anderson, R., Hiebert, E., Scot
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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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3.1 Thinking about intervention

So far we have looked at issues relating to how we define ‘abnormal’ behaviour, and how we think about explanations. Now we will consider the more practical issue of how to approach the treatment of such difficulties. As in the previous section, we will discuss behavioural, cognitive and biological perspectives on treatment and consider specific techniques from each perspective that are applicable to the management of dyslexia.


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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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1.4.1 What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia involves difficulties in learning to read and write. However, this is not the only form of difficulty that people with dyslexia experience. They usually have particular difficulties with coding: learning and retrieving associations between verbal and visual information. The most obvious example is when we have to learn what sounds the letters of the alphabet make, but this difficulty can also affect the speed with which dyslexic people are able to learn and recall the names fo
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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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3 A brief look at psychological methods

We have looked briefly at the kinds of data that psychologists use as the basis for their evidence and we now offer an overview of the methods used to collect these data. Learning about methods is a skill necessary to building up psychological knowledge and moving beyond the base of common-sense knowledge about people that we all use. This section will outline the fundamentals of research procedures and provide you with a terminology – the beginnings of a research language that will
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2.3.3 Material data

A third kind of data is ‘material’ and provides more direct evidence from bodies and brains. This comes from biological psychology and includes biochemical analyses of hormones, cellular analyses, decoding of the human genome and neuropsychological technologies such as brain-imaging techniques. The data that can be collected from the various forms of brain imaging provide direct evidence about structures in the brain and brain functioning, enabling direct links to be made with behaviours
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