Chapter

When Are We Conscious? Attention and Availability

Jesse J. Prinz

in The Conscious Brain

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195314595
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979059 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195314595.003.0003

Series: Philosophy of Mind Series

When Are We Conscious? Attention and Availability

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There is evidence that mere activity within perceptual systems is not sufficient for consciousness. This chapter begins by reviewing evidence for subliminal perception. This raises the question, when do perceptual states become conscious? The answer defended here is that we are conscious when and only when perception is modulated by attention. Evidence for the necessity and sufficiency of attention is presented, and empirical results that aim to dissociated attention and consciousness are critically reviewed. The chapter also offers an account of the nature of attention, according to which attentional modulation is a change in information processing that allows perceptual states to gain access to working memory. It is argued that accessibility to working memory is the psychological correlate of consciousness; actual encoding in working memory is not necessary.

Keywords: attention; conscious awareness; working memory; accessibility; subliminal attention; visual neglect; inattentional blindness; change blindness

Chapter.  20688 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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