Attention and Consciousness: Two Distinct Brain Processes

Division of Biology 216-76, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.
Trends in Cognitive Sciences (Impact Factor: 21.97). 02/2007; 11(1):16-22. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.10.012
Source: PubMed


The close relationship between attention and consciousness has led many scholars to conflate these processes. This article summarizes psychophysical evidence, arguing that top-down attention and consciousness are distinct phenomena that need not occur together and that can be manipulated using distinct paradigms. Subjects can become conscious of an isolated object or the gist of a scene despite the near absence of top-down attention; conversely, subjects can attend to perceptually invisible objects. Furthermore, top-down attention and consciousness can have opposing effects. Such dissociations are easier to understand when the different functions of these two processes are considered. Untangling their tight relationship is necessary for the scientific elucidation of consciousness and its material substrate.

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Available from: Naotsugu Tsuchiya, Feb 18, 2014
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    • "Because of parietal areas' known role in attention, neglect is often thought a disorder of attention. But some commentators go beyond this, taking it also to be a disorder of consciousness, claiming that in hemispatial neglect there is no experience of leftlocated items (Driver & Vuilleumier 2001; Koch & Tsuchiya 2007; Prinz 2007; Vosgerau & Newen 2008). 21 For others, this is hasty: Perhaps when the neglect patient fails to acknowledge an object, there is an experience of the object, but an inability to access the experience prevents 20 Hemispatial neglect can also manifest as a failure to acknowledge the left part of individual objects, the coming two examples being instances of this. "
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    DESCRIPTION: Research into the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) aims to identify not just those brain areas that are NCC, but also those that are not. In the received method for ruling out a brain area from being an NCC, this is accomplished by showing a brain area’s content to be consistently absent from subjects’ reports about what they are experiencing. This paper points out how this same absence can be used to infer that the brain area’s content is cognitively inaccessible, in which case we would expect its content to be absent from subjects’ reports whether its content is (phenomenally) conscious or not. If so, such reports cannot count as evidence against that brain area being an NCC, and the received method fails. An alternative method (one suggested in Block 2007) is considered.
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    • "Difficulties have also been encountered in reconciling various proposals about how attention relates to conscious perceptual experience (cf. e.g., Cohen, Cavanagh, Chun, & Nakayama, 2012; De Brigard & Prinz, 2010; Kentridge, 2011; Koch & Tsuchiya, 2007; Lamme, 2003). It has been suggested that many of these difficulties exist because—contrary to common belief—"attention" does not refer to a single process, but is an umbrella term referring to several processes (Allport, 1993; Treisman, 1969). "
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    ABSTRACT: It is suggested that the relationship between visual attention and conscious visual experience can be simplified by distinguishing different aspects of both visual attention and visual experience. A set of principles is first proposed for any possible taxonomy of the processes involved in visual attention. A particular taxonomy is then put forward that describes five such processes, each with a distinct function and characteristic mode of operation. Based on these, three separate kinds—or possibly grades—of conscious visual experience can be distinguished, each associated with a particular combination of attentional processes.
    Phenomenal Qualities: Sense, Perception, and Consciousness, Edited by P. Coates, S. Coleman, 08/2015: chapter 12: pages 347-375; Oxford: University Press.
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    • "In terms of intellectual roots, the architecture shares much of the structure found in the Global Workspace Theory of consciousness (Baars, 1997), which is part of the considerable literature addressing the relationship 1 Adaptive, Reflective Cognition in an Attention-Driven Integrated Architecture between attention, perception, and consciousness. This relatively new area of research continues to bear fruit (Baars, Banks, & Newman, 2003; Dehaene, Changeux, Naccache, Sackur, & Sergent, 2006; Koch & Tsuchiya, 2007). Where appropriate, we will draw parallels between ideas from this literature and the design of ARCADIA. "
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    ABSTRACT: With few exceptions, architectural approaches to modeling cognition have historically emphasized what happens in the mind following the transduction of environmental signals into percepts. To our knowledge, none of these architectures implements a sophisticated, general theory of human attention. In this paper we summarize progress to date on a new cognitive architecture called ARCADIA that gives a central role to attention in both perception and cognition. First, we give an overview of the architecture, comparing it to other approaches when appropriate. Second, we present a model of incremental object construction and property binding in ARCADIA using the well known change blindness phenomena to illustrate the time course of object perception and its dependence on attention. Finally, we discuss near-term challenges and future plans.
    The 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Pasadena, CA; 07/2015
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