Papers in the Biological Sciences


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monPublished in Behavioral Ecology 11:5 (2000), pp. 502-506. Copyright © 2000 International Society for Behavioral Ecology. Published by Oxford University Press. Used by permission.


Experiments with fish and birds suggest that animals are unable to simultaneously allocate sufficient attention to tasks such as the detection of an approaching predator while searching for cryptic prey. We quantified the effects of limited attention on performance in controlled laboratory settings and report here the first direct evidence that attending to a difficult central task simulating foraging deters a bird’s ability to detect a peripheral target, which could be a predator. Our results fill a gap between ecological and neurobiological studies by illustrating that, although attention is an efficient filtering mechanism, limited attention may be a major cause of mortality in nature