Effortless Attention

Effortless Attention

A New Perspective in the Cognitive Science of Attention and Action

Edited by Brian Bruya

The phenomena of effortless attention and action and the challenges they pose to current cognitive models of attention and action.

A Bradford Book





The phenomena of effortless attention and action and the challenges they pose to current cognitive models of attention and action.

This is the first book to explore the cognitive science of effortless attention and action. Attention and action are generally understood to require effort, and the expectation is that under normal circumstances effort increases to meet rising demand. Sometimes, however, attention and action seem to flow effortlessly despite high demand. Effortless attention and action have been documented across a range of normal activities—ranging from rock climbing to chess playing—and yet fundamental questions about the cognitive science of effortlessness have gone largely unasked. This book draws from the disciplines of cognitive psychology, neurophysiology, behavioral psychology, genetics, philosophy, and cross-cultural studies. Starting from the premise that the phenomena of effortless attention and action provide an opportunity to test current models of attention and action, leading researchers from around the world examine topics including effort as a cognitive resource, the role of effort in decision-making, the neurophysiology of effortless attention and action, the role of automaticity in effortless action, expert performance in effortless action, and the neurophysiology and benefits of attentional training.

ContributorsJoshua M. Ackerman, James H. Austin, John A. Bargh Roy F. Baumeister, Sian L. Beilock, Chris Blais, Matthew M. Botvinick, Brian Bruya, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Marci S. DeCaro, Arne Dietrich, Yuri Dormashev, László Harmat, Bernhard Hommel, Rebecca Lewthwaite, Örjan de Manzano, Joseph T. McGuire, Brian P. Meier, Arlen C. Moller, Jeanne Nakamura, Michael I. Posner, Mary K. Rothbart, M.R. Rueda, Brandon J. Schmeichel, Edward Slingerland, Oliver Stoll, Yiyuan Tang, Töres Theorell, Fredrik Ullén, Gabriele Wulf


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262013840 464 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 34 b&w illus., 2 tables


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262513951 464 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 34 b&w illus., 2 tables


Brian Bruya

Brian Bruya is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Michigan University and Center Associate at the University of Michigan's Center for Chinese Studies. He is the editor of Effortless Attention: A New Perspective on the Cognitive Science of Attention and Action.


  • Different from the traditional textbooks on attention and even from the majority of anthologies...informative....attention is a vibrant field. I'm not sure that reading the book is accompanied by flow, but it is worth the effort.

    American Journal of Psychology

  • What is unusual and valuable about this book is the breadth....especially valuable for researchers who want to broaden their horizons and think about further philosophical, experimental, or practical implications of their research. The quality of the chapters is generally high....The editor has succeeded in putting the phenomenon of effortless-attention on the interdisciplinary research agenda.

    Quarterly Review of Biology


  • A challenge to the naïve but prevailing notion of a central executive, somewhere in the frontal lobe or its vicinity, dishing out the orders to the rest of the brain and controlling every cognitive function, from attention on up. Evidently, cognitive functions, notably attention, can operate efficiently and effortlessly on the margins of consciousness. Attention and performance are inextricable from the perception-action cycle, where there is no true causal origin and consciousness is merely a phenomenon—and in fact can be an impediment. The evidence presented in Effortless Attention makes ample room for priming, intuition, gut-feeling, automatism, and other hidden but very real unconscious brain powers behind decision-making and the pursuit of goals.

    Joaquín M. Fuster

    Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, author of The Prefrontal Cortex

  • The chapters in Bruya's book represent an extraordinary breadth and diversity of approaches to the study of control of thought, word, and deed. The ideas presented in this volume are grounded in historical approaches to attention and yet they benefit from the most modern work in cognitive and neuroscience. This book should be on the shelf of every serious student of how the mind works.

    Randall W. Engle

    Editor, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Georgia Institute of Technology