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This model assumes that information selection occurs at a very early stage with no guarantee that the selected information is relevant to the task Anne Treisman , who is one of the most influential cognitive psychologist 15 reformulated it into a more flexible version called the Filter-Attenuation Theory. The working hypothesis of this theory is that processing of unattended information is attenuated or reduced, rather than completely filtered out, accounting for the fact that unattended information sometimes reaches consciousness.

They emerged in the early 70s when a shift in the study of attention occurred: from experiments mainly based on auditory tasks towards experiments involving visual tasks. Research on attention blossomed during the last quarter of the 20 th century and many studies emanating from multiple source models corroborated the assumption that it is easier to perform two tasks together when the tasks use different stimulus or response modalities than when they use the same modalities. Treisman and Gelade published a seminal paper in which the very influential Feature Integration Theory was propounded.

This theory extended the Spotlight theory of visual attention 20 , which assumed that it was possible to change the focus.

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Moreover, the idea of selective attention is now studied from different perspectives in the social sciences Besides, we will pay special attention to the contribution of Michael Polanyi, whose epistemological stance at the nature of knowledge is valuable for current economic analysis. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its consumers. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.

Simon, , Borrowing from the work of the Dutch A. It is what Simon names intuition conceived as a process of subconscious pattern recognition 25 :. De Groot put chess positions — taken from actual games — before subjects for, say five seconds; then he removed the positions and asked the subjects to reconstruct them. Chess grandmasters and masters could reconstruct the positions with perhaps 20 to 24 pieces on the board almost without error, while duffers were able to locate hardly any of the pieces correctly and the performance of players of intermediate skill fell somewhat between masters and duffers.

Simon, [] , For Simon, information processing psychology permits to explain what people really do when they have to take difficult decisions and solve complex problems:.

Information processing theories envisage problem solving as involving very selective search through problem spaces that are often immense. Satisficing criteria terminate search when satisfactory problem solutions have been found. The role of the near-decomposability of a problem into sub-problems is a mean that facilitates problem-solving, that is, the search of solutions As Simon wrote:.

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We see this particularly clearly when the problem to be solved is similar to one that has been solved before. Then, by simply trying again the paths that led to the earlier solution, or their analogues, trial-and-error search is greatly reduced or altogether eliminated. Simon [], , Different authors have stressed different aspects of attention allocation and structuring, but not in a unified perspective.

In particular, they have emphasized either attention as shaped by routines and bounded rationality March and Simon, ; Cyert and March, , or alternatively, as loosely coupled through enactment processes 29 Weick, and organized anarchy 30 Cohen, March and Olsen, He instead tries to develop an explanation for firm behaviour based on the structuring of organizational attention. These situations are characteristic of the health care sector Madsen et al.

This led him to consider attention, conceived as a device highly related to abstraction and simplification in the context of overabundance of information, as a key device in problem solving. He also explored the overwhelming theoretical and empirical implications of the interplay between cognition and structure in a vast array of fields such as information processing, organizational design or scientific research in general. As will be developed next, Friedrich Hayek was also deeply interested in the attentional aspects of human cognition, though from a different perspective.

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His interest for the role of attention is highly related to his conception of knowledge, as developed in The Sensory Order , a contribution to theoretical cognitive psychology he wrote in the 20s but only published in the 50s Every sub-system of this kind will constitute a partial map of the environment, and the maps formed at the lower levels will serve for the guidance of merely a limited range of responses, and at the same time act as filters or preselectors for the impulses sent on the higher centers, for which in turn, the maps of the lower levels constitute a part of the environment.

Hayek, , Moreover, it is specific to each individual. Perception is thus always an interpretation, the placing of something into one or several classes of objects. This is why Hayek thinks that, in order to discriminate between consciousness and unconsciousness, it is more useful to concentrate on what consciousness does rather than on what consciousness is ibid. Hayek explains that one of the criteria of consciousness is its unity, i. The unity of consciousness means that consciousness deals with a common space-time framework, which is only the emerged part of the iceberg, apparently separate from the foundations, i.

For instance, hypnotic practices can illustrate this feature of attention in this case, involuntary attention occurring at remote level of unconsciousness. Therefore it is as if attention permitted to highlight some of the patterns involved in the model directing behavior and therefore made us more aware of the mental events resulting from them.

The latter, in turn, is essential in order to reach a synthetic view of his overall contribution, and in particular to understand how he characterized market mechanisms This lead him to consider attention as a way to circumvent the limits of knowledge due to its fragmented nature 1 by permitting a higher degree of awareness on the causality between peculiar circumstances and the specific outcome they give rise to in a context of excitatory preparedness and 2 by providing the conditions for individuals to communicate between each other since they are conscious to share the same cognitive structures in particular abstracting abilities.

It is therefore quite natural to consider him as another forerunner of the economics of attention. He was the brother of the well-known economist Karl Polanyi and the father of John Polanyi who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in For Polanyi, tacit knowledge is a key component of all kind of knowledge, scientific, artistic or religious. Discovery must be arrived at by the tacit powers of the mind and its content, so far as it is indeterminate, can be only tacitly known.

I shall call it tacit knowing. It will facilitate my discussion of tacit knowing if I speak of the clues or parts that are subsidiarily known as the proximal term of tacit knowing and of that which is focally known as the distal term of tacit knowing. Focal awareness is the ordinary kind of full awareness we have in focusing attention on a specifiable object. Subsidiary awareness , in contrast, refers to the more remote peripheral noticing of the features of an object that are not attended to in themselves but seen as pointers or clues to the object of focal attention.

But for Polanyi, attention is sense depriving not due to cognitive limitations. We may be able to specify all the items or subsidiary clues that are entering into an integrated meaning. One type is due to the difficulty of tracing the subsidiaries — a condition that is widespread but not universal; the other type is due to a sense deprivation which is logically necessary and in principle absolute. The first one, i. The second one, i. Polanyi also warns us against the opportunity cost of attention, i.

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The main objective of this exercise is to suggest new directions of research that still need to be developed. Two of the forerunners of economics of attention, Hayek and Polanyi do not inspire recent literature dealing with attention. As for Hayek see below his conception of information and knowledge seems to be the main explanation of this lack of descent. From this perspective, attention is conceived, in compliance with the principles of the mathematical theory of communication Shannon, , as a function of the unlikelihood of an event to happen and of the frequency of similar past events which provides a measure of the surprise value or the degree of novelty.

Consequently, an event that has never been experienced before is supposed to have a high surprise value and therefore to attract attention, even if it lacks any specific associations or consequences. This seems however at odds with the diffused idea in cognitive psychology that attention depends on both the unexpectedness of events and of their familiar association.

This drawback, together with the recognition of the incalculable effect of past experience on the information carried by any binary digit ultimately led them to abandon information theory As well-known, this approach assumes full rationality and considers sub-optimalities caused by asymmetric information and information overload.

Key empirical issues relate to information pollution and its solutions technological tools, market-based mechanisms, or institutional arrangements and regulatory devices. This algebraic approach has become prominent in the economic literature and has given rise to recent developments dedicated to awareness More precisely, the literature analyses the various business strategies price or product discrimination in the presence of network externalities, switching costs, product sharing, etc.

But usually attention scarcity has an asymmetric impact on information users and providers.

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This explains that an important part of the literature is concerned with the problem of spamming. This problem is a typical case of externality or information pollution in a context of asymmetric information between the e-mail sender, who knows the contents of the message, and the receiver, who does not. It is a case of externality or information pollution the sender of the message imposes to the receiver.

Three main solutions have been proposed, the technological, the institutional and the market-based one From our history of economic thought perspective, it is very interesting to note that Hotelling as soon as warned against the harmful effect of excess demand for attention on behalf of media and advertising businesses, as the following quotation strikingly exemplifies:.

Another thing of limited quantity for which the demand exceeds the supply is the attention of people. Attention is desired for a variety of commercial, political, and other purposes, and is obtained with the help of billboards, newspaper, radio, and other advertising. Expropriation of the attention of the general public and its commercial sale and exploitation constitute a lucrative business.

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From some aspects this business appears to be of a similar character to that of the medieval robber barons, and therefore to be an appropriate subject for prohibition by a state democratically controlled by those from whom their attention is stolen. But attention attracting of some kinds and in some degree is bound to persist; and where it does, it may appropriately be taxed as a utilization of a limited resource.

Taxation of advertising on this basis would be in addition to any taxation imposed for the purpose of diminishing its quantity with a view to restoring the property of attention to its rightful owners. Hotelling, , Kessous, Mellet and Zouinar adopt an economic sociology perspective and interpret current innovations in the digital economy as attempts to reconcile customer relationship CRM 45 and vendor relationship VRM 46 management practices.

Rizzello, According to the first interpretation, bounded rationality is seen as a limitation to human rationality. By contrast, the second interpretation conceives bounded rationality as an adaptive capacity. In particular, the assumption that individuals neither look up nor integrate all information conveys a context-dependent conception of rationality.

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  8. In a nutshell, rationality is contingent to the institutional environment and can only be measured in an evolutionary perspective. As emphasized by Sims , the assumption of limited attention or rational inattention provides a microfoundation for economic behavior that looks enough like the familiar rational expectation assumption to ensure usefulness and tractability, even though the implications for policy are different enough to be interesting Sims , 1.

    Similarly, Akerlof, Dickens and Perry show that assuming near-rational wage and price setting in macroeconomic modeling on the ground that experimental observations show that agents have some cognitive biases in macroeconomic does not impair the robustness of the results, and is consistent with some empirical findings.

    In the same vein, Falkinger develops a general equilibrium model where agents are conceived as passive signal receivers characterized by limited attention and information providers are seeking to catch their attention by sending messages. The ability of agents to process an additional signal depends on the spared capacity left after the load imposed by exposure to other signals. Moreover, there exists a minimum marginal strength of a message in order for it to be perceived by the consumers.

    When total signal exposure lies below a certain level this is the case of information-poor economies , there is no interference between different signals. Beyond this point this is the case of information-rich economies capacity limits lead to such interference. Falkinger concludes that information-rich economies reach an inefficient equilibrium —and therefore faces some welfare losses— due to attention-seekers engaging in wasteful signalling in the competition for attention. But, to repeat it, in these kinds of models, the traditional assumption of economic rationality is preserved. These contributions provide models whose theoretical predictions are corroborated by some experiments. In particular, they show how selective attention may lead individuals to persistently fail to recognize important empirical regularities, make biased forecasts, and hold incorrect beliefs about the statistical relationships between variables.

    Interesting work based on both theoretical modeling and experiments 47 by Gabaix et al. But given the trade-off between tractability and realism involved in theoretical modeling, this literature looks however very promising and reveals a more profound rupture with the classical conception of rationality in economics.