Cognitive Psychology of Activity: Attention as a Constructive Process
The problem of consciousness is one of the core problems in the contemporary cognitive science. Driven by the neuroimaging boom, most researchers look for the neural correlates or signatures of consciousness and awareness in the human brain. However, we believe that the explanatory potential of the cultural-historical activity approach to this problem is far from being exhausted. We propose Cognitive Psychology of Activity research program, or the activity theory-based constructivism as an attempt to account for multiple phenomena of human awareness and attention. This approach relies upon cultural-historical psychology and the concept of mediation by Lev S. Vygotsky, activity theory and the concept of image generation by Alexey N. Leontiev, the physiology of activity and the metaphor of movement construction by Nikolai A. Bernstein, transferred to the psychology of perception as image construction by a number of Russian researchers in 1960-es, and the understanding of attention as action by evolutionary cognitive psychologists of 1980-es. The central concept of our approach is a concept of task, defined by Leontiev as “a goal assigned in specific circumstances”. The goal determines choice and use of available cultural means (“mediators”) consistent with the circumstances or conditions of task performance, which in turn provide for the construction of processing
units allowing for more successful (“attentive”) performance and for the awareness of visual stimuli which could otherwise be missed or ignored. The perceptual task accomplishment is controlled at several levels organized heterarchically, with possible strategic reorganizations of this system demonstrating the constructive nature of human cognition.
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