Factors Influencing Attention

Attention is a process but not a product. It helps in the cognizance of our environment, which is of a particular kind because, at a particular time, one can focus our responsiveness on a particular object only. There are controlling factors that influence attention. These are the external factors and are usually dependent on the features of stimuli. They can be categorized as nature of the stimulus, intensity and size of the stimulus, contrast, change, variety, movement of the stimulus, etc. The internal factors influence attention using interest, motive, etc.

What are the Factors Influencing Attention?

The attention procedure includes selecting distinct variables while eliminating the less important ones. A picture attracts more than a few words to anyone. Attention can be drawn to loud sounds, bright lights, or strong smells. Repetition is a strong factor that draws our attention because a person may ignore stimuli if they occur once but can't if they happen repetitively. Hence effective stimulus should always be selected for maximum attention. Among internal factors, interest is the mother of all. If a subject of great interest is discussed, it will automatically attract us and make us participate in the discussion. People's motives, like hunger, thirst, safety, etc., are crucial in drawing attention. Our positive and negative attitudes also determine our attention. Thus, it can be said that these external and internal factors are interrelated.

Types of Attention

Major types are

Involuntary Attention − This type of attention is induced due to the play of self-control. For example, a mother's attention towards her crying baby. The attention caused by instincts is called enforced non-volitional attention.

Voluntary Attention − When attention is caused due to exercised will, it is not spontaneous or automatic and wants less intentional effort. For example, answering questions about mathematics in textbooks to get better marks.

External Factors (External Determiners)

These are

  • Intensity of the Stimuli − The greater the intensity of the stimulus Then more likely a person will be drawn toward it. Our attention will be more easily drawn toward a bright light, strong smell or loud sound, etc.

  • Size −The larger the stimulus, the more attention will be drawn toward it. For example, a truck will draw more attention than a scooter or smaller vehicle.

  • Motion of the Stimuli − A moving stimulus gets more attention than a static one, and a person is more sensitive to something moving in his/her field of vision. For example, a moving person draws more attention than someone standing still. Advertisers take help of this fact and catch more attention towards them by using moving electric lights.

  • Contrast, change, variety − Variety, and uniqueness catch more attention than the monotonous surroundings, i.e., different from the environment. For example, a word or a sentence in a paragraph, if written in different color or font, will catch more attention than the list of the document. If a clock suddenly stops ticking, we will only pay attention to it. The factor contrast or change is more highly responsible for capturing attention than the stimulus's intensity, size, or nature.

  • Repetition of the Stimuli − Repetition is a significant factor as it secures greater attention. Because a person can ignore a thing for once but cannot if it is repeated multiple times. For example, when a teacher repeats the same text from a book, the students get more attentive toward it. A miss-spelled word is more noticeable if repeated several times than if it occurs only once.

  • Duration and degree Of the Stimuli − Greater attention will be drawn to that stimulus which will last longer. For example, disaster warning alarm or siren, vehicle's horn sound for a longer time, etc.

  • Novelty − Something brand / new gets more attention than traditional ones. For example, a new teacher in a school gets more attention from the students in the school.

Internal Factors or Subjective Factors

These are

  • Interest − Interest is the most important factor in attention. We show more attention towards those things to which we have greater attention, which is visible in our daily lives. We watch TV shows or movies of great interest because we are interested in that thing.

  • Motives − Our basic motives help to draw attention. Factors like thirst, hunger, curiosity, and fear affect attention. For example, a thirsty person is more attracted to water than anything else.

  • Mindset − A person's readiness to reply to any stimulus makes that person more attentive. For example, if a student was expecting an examination, then if the timetable of the exam suddenly got out, it will surely draw more attention to that particular student.

  • Moods and Attitudes − The things to whom we are attending are always influenced by the person's moods and attitudes. For example, an angry person easily points out a person's mistake. In the same, our positive and negative attitudes determine attention.

  • Desire − A person's desire become a major cause of paying attention to something. For example, a student who wants to be a cricketer in the future will pay more attention to his cricket practices.

  • Aim/ Goal − Each person has an ultimate goal in his/her life. For example, a student to pass the exam with good marks will pay more attention to his books and exams.

  • Past experiences − From past experiences, if we can determine that a particular person is sincere to us, we will pay more attention to him/her. In this way, an effective stimulus is always chosen to draw maximum attention.

  • Organic State − The physical state of the person, like tiredness, discomfort, sickness, etc., also plays a role in giving attention. Again, if a person is in a state of survival, he or she will pay attention to the stimuli related to the resources of survival.

  • Emotion − Stimuli that call on stronger emotion attract greater attention. Although positive emotions lead to better focus, negative emotions lead to poor concentration.


Hence, it can be concluded that attention is an intuitive process that permits a person to select, concentrate, and respond to relevant stimuli depending on factors like intensity, size, contrast, color and change, motion, motive desire, etc.

Updated on: 12-Dec-2022

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