Evolution of Attentional Processes in the Human Organism

Group Analysis 32 (2):243-253 (1999)
Abstract
This article explores the evolution of human attention, focusing particularly on the phylogenetic and ontogenetic implications of the work of the American social psychiatrist Trigant Burrow. Attentional development is linked to the emergence of visual perspective, and this, in turn, is related to Burrow's notion of `ditention' (divided or partitive attention). Burrow's distinction between `ditention' and `cotention' (total organismic awareness) is examined, and, expanding on this, a threefold pattern of perceptual change is identified: prototention-->ditention-->cotention. Next, ditentive visual perspective is related to binocular convergence, and the author makes use of the perspectivally ambiguous, `non-convergent' Gestalt figure known as the Necker Cube to illustrate cotention. The paper concludes by proposing that the shift from the currently pervasive ditentive pattern of awareness to a cotentive mode could have a salutary effect on human society.
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