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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Attention biases information processing and, as such, is critically involved in almost everything we do, ensuring adaptive interaction with our environment. In recent years, the study of attention has immensely benefited from the conceptual and methodological convergence with social cognition. Thus, it has become apparent that the way in which attention is allocated and sustained is not merely subject to sensory influences such as perceptual salience but also is greatly influenced by social relevance, such as where someone else is directing their attention, and other complex factors such as emotion. Furthermore, translating lab-based studies of attention into real-world settings and supplementing traditional reaction time–based attention measures with social cognition tools such as self-report measures provide novel insights into how attention operates in everyday life. We discuss this issue in the context of research on sustained attention, attention lapses and mind wandering. Taken together, research on attention shows that attention is tightly linked with mood and emotion and that it is not an isolated process that is encapsulated within the individual, but rather comprises highly dynamic and flexible mechanisms that can be distributed across individuals, affecting the way in which people encode their surroundings and interact with each other.

Keywords: attention, sustained attention, social interaction, emotion, mood, attention lapses, mind wandering

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