Perceptual consciousness overflows cognitive access

Document Type: 
Article
Article Type: 
Theoretical
Disciplines: 
Philosophy
Topics: 
Neural Correlates of Consciousness
Keywords: 
Consciousness, capacity, working memory, iconic memory, Sperling, NCC, awareness
Deposited by: 
Ned Block
Contact email: 
ned.block@nyu.edu
Date of Issue: 
2011
Authors: 
Block, Ned
Journal/Publication Title: 
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume: 
15
Issue Number: 
12
Page Range: 
567-575
Number of Pages: 
9
Publisher: 
Elsevier
Place of Publication: 
New York
ID number: 
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2011.11.001
Official URL: 
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2011.11.001
Alternative URL: 
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Block_Overflow.pdf
Publish status: 
Published
Abstract: 

One of the most important issues concerning the foundations of conscious perception centers on the question of whether perceptual consciousness is rich or sparse. The overflow argument uses a form of ‘iconic memory’ to argue that perceptual consciousness is richer (i.e., has a higher capacity) than cognitive access: when observing a complex scene we are conscious of more than we can report or think about. Recently, the overflow argument has been challenged both empirically and conceptually. This paper reviews the controversy, arguing that proponents of sparse perception are committed to the postulation of (i) a peculiar kind of generic conscious representation that has no independent rationale (for example, an image of a non-square rectangle that does not specify any orientation) and (ii) an unmotivated form of unconscious representation that in some cases conflicts with what we know about unconscious representation.

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Block_Overflow.pdf1.18 MB