The Power of Attention

Arguably we have at least five senses—some experts say more. It is generally accepted that we take information in through our senses, but even this process is not all that simple. There are different accounts of how many senses we have and what role they play. In addition to the normal five senses accredited to the human being—sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste—additional sensory perceptions are often included in the list. These include temperature, balance, kinesthesis, pain and sometimes intuition (or the sixth sense). While these differing views are all part of an effort to label and classify, the fact remains that visuals quicken our ability to establish meaning and internalize information.

Vision is the sense that includes sight; it is the ability of the brain to detect images in a certain electromagnetic way in a range of light. Processing images is, however, a little more complex than just taking in a visual because we take in images on many levels.  For example, electromagnetic impulses, or thoughts, are believed to be some form of energy, but there is controversy about what impacts these impulses. Furthermore, some schools of thought say that there are two or three different senses that make up the energy field called vision including sensors for color, brightness and depth perception. I believe it is even a bit more complex than that. Because visuals are also filtered through the affective domain, they are not only influenced by cognition, but they also influence and are influenced by feelings.  Vision can be stimulated externally or internally. You can look at a drawing or photograph of a tree by a stream, or you can also imagine the same thing.

Many famous learning, instructional and motivational theories begin with the concept of attention.  Your teachers—and your mother—always told you to pay attention, please! What is attention and why is it so important? Attention is about focus and concentration. It is the cognitive process of concentrating on a thought, emotion or thing. Visuals can grab our attention and help us hold and focus on a thought.

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