Salience, attention, and attribution: Top of the head phenomena

Shelley E. Taylor, Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

935 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the social psychologists study “top of the head” phenomena in their experimental investigations. Attention within the social environment is selective. It is drawn to particular features of the environment either as a function of qualities intrinsic to those features (such as light or movement) or as a function of the perceiver's own dispositions and temporary need states. These conditions are outlined in the chapter. As a result of differential attention to particular features, information about those features is more available to the perceiver. Relative to the quantity of information retained about other features, more is retained about the salient features. When the salient person is the self, the same effects occur, and the individual is also found to show more consistency in attitudes and behaviors. These processes may occur primarily in situations which are redundant, unsurprising, uninvolving, and unarousing. They seem to occur automatically and substantially without awareness, and as such, they differ qualitatively from the intentional, conscious, controlled kind of search which characterizes all the behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-288
Number of pages40
JournalAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1978

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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