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Good attention: Attention norms and their role in practical reason, epistemology, and ethics

Project description

A normative evaluation of attention

What deserves attention and what should be ignored? What is good attention and what is bad attention? The EU-funded GOODATTENTION project conducts an interdisciplinary study of attention and the norms that guide it. It concerns normative questions about attention: about, for example, ethically correct or rational patterns of attention. It integrates research in psychology, neuroscience and linguistics with the philosophical fields of decision theory, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. GOODATTENTION investigates the cognitive and social mechanisms of norm-guided attention. And it integrates attention into normative philosophy. Contemporary societies face challenges about how to organise and share information, about mental health, collective action and new media landscapes. GOODATTENTION develops principles that can guide legal scholars and policymakers in this context.


What is good attention? Much public discussion about social media, public health, and political debates is focused on versions of this question. What deserves our attention and how we should regulate attention in the face of distraction occupies the debate. What is missing is a philosophical investigation of attention norms and a framework for thinking about them. This is what GOODATTENTION provides. While entire fields of philosophy investigate the normative assessment of other aspects of the mind, the normative structure of attention remains largely unstudied. In its ground-breaking and interdisciplinary approach GOODATTENTION connects the study of the nature and the causal role of attention in psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics with the philosophical fields of decision theory, epistemology, and ethics. It develops a unified foundation for the study of attention norms by using a novel conceptual framework based on priority structures that organize the mind. It aims, first, to understand how attention norms emerge within our individual psychology and in the social domain. And it aims, second, to evaluate attention norms by integrating them into normative philosophy. The project's hypothesis is that the fundamental norms of attention concern relevance. GOODATTENTION investigates the biological function of relevance processing and the role of social relevance for how attention is guided by social norms. Building on this investigation, GOODATTENTION considers the role of attention norms for relevance in decision making, and in epistemic and ethical considerations. GOODATTENTION will impact these philosophical fields by showing how they can integrate norms of attention. It unifies research in evolutionary biology, cognitive and social psychology, linguistics, economics, and political theory. Its investigation of the epistemic role of attention and ethical rights and duties regarding attention will provide an analytical framework as input for policy making.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 999 997,00
0313 Oslo

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Norge Oslo og Viken Oslo
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 999 997,00

Beneficiaries (1)