The attentional focus and conscious awareness

Nelson Cowan

in Attention and Memory

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780195119107
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870097 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Psychology Series

 The attentional focus and conscious awareness

Show Summary Details


This is a broad-ranging chapter seeking evidence relating the focus of attention to conscious awareness. The concept of a unitary focus of attention includes the notion that there is a limited attentional resource, that awareness depends on it, and that attention can be directed outwardly (toward stimuli) or inwardly (toward thoughts). Several challenges to this view are discussed and countered. There are challenges from cognitive science, in the multiple-resources view; from psychology at large, from research on dissociated states; and from the philosophy of mind, in the notion of multiple perceptual drafts instead of a unitary conscious view. These views are countered with evidence that, although people often have multiple perceptual products, express self-contradictory thoughts, and perform conflicting actions, some of these processes take place outside of attention and awareness. They cannot all be controlled as well as the subset of processes taking place in the focus of attention.

Keywords: attentional resource; dissociated states; focus of attention; multiple-resources view; perceptual drafts; unitary focus

Chapter.  18331 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.