Urbanization decreases attentional engagement

Linnell, Karina J; Caparos, Serge; De Fockert, J. W. and Davidoff, Jules B.. 2013. Urbanization decreases attentional engagement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 39(5), pp. 1232-1247. ISSN 0096-1523 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Exposure to the urban environment has been shown dramatically to increase the tendency to process contextual information. To further our understanding of this effect of urbanization, we compared performance on a local-selection task of a remote people, the Himba, living traditionally or relocated to town. We showed that (a) spatial attention was defocused in urbanized Himba but focused in traditional Himba (Experiment 1), despite urbanized Himba performing better on a working memory task (Experiment 3); (b) imposing a cognitive load made attention as defocused in traditional as in urbanized Himba (Experiment 2); and (c) using engaging stimuli/tasks made attention as focused in urbanized Himba, and British, as in traditional Himba (Experiments 4 and 5). We propose that urban environments prioritize exploration at the expense of attentional engagement and cognitive control of attentional selection.

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selective attention, engagement, working memory, urbanization, culture

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Research Office > REF2014


October 2013Published

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Date Deposited:

08 Jul 2013 16:12

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 10:09

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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