Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one thing while ignoring other things. Examples include listening carefully to what someone is saying while ignoring other conversations in the room. Attention can also be split, as when a person can drive a car, put on makeup, and talk on a cell phone at the same time.

Attention is one of the most intensely studied topics within psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Of the many cognitive processes associated with the human mind (decision-making, memory, emotion, etc), attention is considered the most concrete because it is tied so closely to perception. As such, it is a gateway to the rest of cognition.

The most famous definition of attention was provided by one of the first major psychologists, William James:

"Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought...It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others." (Principles of Psychology, 1890)

History of the study of attention:
In James' time, the only method available to study attention was introspection. Very little progress was made in quantifying the study of attention, though it was considered a major field of intellectual inquiry - Read more...

Read more about Current reasearch and human attention.