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Jennings, J.R.

Jennings, J.R.

Richard Jennings, born in Boise, Idaho, USA, in 1944. Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Fellow (1 September 1998 – 31 January 1999)

Our primary goal at NIAS, which we achieved, was to produce a significant review of the puzzle of anticipatory attention. Why do warnings of upcoming events assist our performance so much? This question has stymied psychologists and physiologists and was a starting point for the review that was undertaken by myself and my colleague, Maurits van der Molen. Our conceptual analysis and review of the empirical literature suggested that our minds are always active with multiple streams of actions related to ongoing events. A basic form of attention must sort out which stream should have access to the processes executing action at any given instant. The problem of preparation then is to inhibit all competing streams of action at the precise instant that the stimulus to react occurs.

We termed our view a co-ordination for action (CAT, for short) view of preparation. In our view, preparation requires first establishing a schema for responding which links the perception of the task stimulus to the required response and determines the trajectory of inhibition required to isolate this schema from competition a plan. Preparation is initiated at the warning signal and is seen physiologically as the inhibition of various active competing schemas (changes in patterns of brain activation and outputs related to those activations in the body). As the time for responding approaches, competing responses are blocked by inhibitory processes, which again can be seen in e.g., the brain and the heart. Thus, preparation is co-ordination for action.