Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2017

Major Department or Program



Erin Pahlke


Students are constantly asked to attend to work. Being able to selectively attend, and ignore often interesting distractors, is important for learning. However, little research has explored factors that help the cognitively challenging task of selective attention. In the present study I describe how motivation can help in understanding selective attention. Specifically, motivation may alter how cognitive resources are used for processing task specific goals rather then being used to selectively attend. Experimentally, some participants were encouraged to be more interest motivated by giving them a choice of image categories used for a selective attention task, while other participants were given no choice. To assess consciousness of goal processing, three questionnaires were given throughout the study. Results indicate choice is motivating, but must be salient and processed as a key factor of the task. Though no relationship was found between motivation and selective attention or motivation and conscious processing of goals, there was a relationship between consciousness of goals and selective attention. Results reemphasize the importance of learning skills sequentially so that conscious attention can remain on reacting to novel stimuli, not focusing on already learned material.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Motivation (Psychology), Cognitive psychology, Goal (Psychology), Selective (Psychology), Consciousness -- Goals, Autonomy (Psychology), Self-determination (Psychology), Attention, Social sciences, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2017 -- Psychology Department

Permanent URL

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Available for download on Friday, May 10, 2019

Included in

Psychology Commons



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