Our ability to attend selectively to our surroundings - taking notice of the things that matter, and ignoring those that don't - is crucial if we are to negotiate the world around us in an efficient manner. Several aspects of the temporal dimension turn out to be critical in determining how we can put together and select the events that are important to us as they themselves unfold over time. For example, we often miss events that happen while we are occupied
perceiving or responding to another stimulus. On the other hand, temporal regularity between events can also greatly improve our perception.
In addition, our perception of the passage of time itself can also be distorted as while we are performing actions or paying attention to different aspects of the environment. Surprisingly, this fascinating and fundamental interplay between ' attention' and 'time' has been relatively neglected in the psychology and neuroscience literatures until very recently.
Attention & Time is the first book to address this foundational topic, bringing together several intriguing and hitherto fragmented findings into a compelling and cohesive field of enquiry. The book contains thirty-one critical-review chapters from internationally recognised experts in the field, carefully organised into three stand-alone, yet extensively cross-referenced, themed sections. Each section focuses on distinct ways in which attention and time influence one another. These
sections, each encompassing a range of methodologies from classical cognitive psychology to single-cell neurophysiology, provide functionally unifying frameworks to help guide the reader through the many various experimental and theoretical approaches adopted.
Section 1 considers variations of attention across time, and explores how attentional allocation is limited by very short or very long intervals of time. Section 2 describes several types of temporal illusion, illustrating how attention can modulate the perception of the passage of time itself. "A watched pot never boils" and, conversely, "time flies when you're having fun" nicely capture the experimental observation that the degree of attention allocated to stimulus timing contributes to its
subjective duration. Finally, Section 3 examines how attention can be directed in time, to predictable or expected moments in time, so as to optimise behaviour.
Bringing conceptually discrete, yet functionally related, fields of temporal attention research together within a single volume, this book provides a comprehensive overview that will be of value to the interested novice in cognitive neuroscience, whilst also inspiring experts in the field to make, perhaps previously overlooked, links with their own field of research.
Anna Christina Nobre is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow in Psychology at New College Oxford. She is Director of the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity, Head of the Brain & Cognition Laboratory, Co-Director of the Oxford Social Neuroscience Laboratory, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago.
The aim of her research is to reveal the organizational principles of the neural systems supporting cognitive functions in the human brain. Her current work focuses on the dynamic regulation of perception, action and memory by changing predictions, task goals and motivation. Her research combines complementary non-invasive techniques to investigate the human brain at work (e.g., MEG, EEG, fMRI, TMS).
Jennifer Coull's research career began in 1991 at the University of Cambridge, where she completed her PhD thesis on the psychopharmacology of human attentional and executive processes. In 1994, she moved to the Functional Imaging Laboratory (FIL) of the Institute of Neuroscience, University College London in order to combine psychopharmacological techniques with functional neuroimaging. It was here that her interest in specifically temporal aspects of attention developed, with investigations
of both sustained attention and temporal orienting using PET and the recently developed technique of fMRI. Here also was the birthplace of her long-term collaboration and friendship with co-editor Anna Christina (Kia) Nobre. After 7 years in London she moved to the University of Provence in Marseille.
Here, again using fMRI, she continued her to explore the multi-faceted relationship between attention and time by studying how attention can modulate the perception of time itself.