Vol 6 (2000)

Table of Contents

Book Reviews

The Enchanting Subject Of Consciousness (Or Is It A Black Hole?) Review of Enchanted Looms: Conscious Networks In Brains and Computers By Rodney Cotterill Full Text
John G. Taylor
Davies's Continuum Theory: Does It Capture Experience? Review of Experience and Content: Consequences of a Continuum Theory By W. Martin Davies Full Text
Dennis Lomas
When Good Observers Go Bad:Change Blindness, Inattentional Blindness, and Visual Experience Full Text
Ronald A. Rensink
A Review of Jose Luis Bermudez's The Paradox of Self-Consciousness. Full Text
Tim Kenyon



A Defense of First-Order Representationalist Theories of Mental-State Consciousness Summary Full Text
Robert W. Lurz
Recently, Peter Carruthers has advanced the debate over first-order representationalist theories (FORs) and higher-order representationalist theories (HORs) of consciousness by offering two innovative arguments in support of dispositionalist HORs. In this article, I offer a limited defense of actualist FORs by showing that Carruthers' two arguments either beg the question against such accounts, equivocate on important concepts, or rest on suspect claims about our abilities to attribute phenomenal consciousness to animals. In addition, I argue that dispositionalist HORs face an apparent counterexample, one which Carruthers does not consider.
Replies to Critics: Explaining Subjectivity Summary Full Text
Peter Carruthers
This article replies to the main objections raised by the commentators on Carruthers (1998a). It discusses the question of what evidence is relevant to the assessment of dispositional higher-order thought (HOT) theory; it explains how the actual properties of phenomenal consciousness can be dispositionally constituted; it discusses the case of pains and other bodily sensations in non-human animals and young children; it sketches the case for preferring higher-order to first-order theories of phenomenal consciousness; and it replies to some miscellaneous points and objections.
How to Solve the Hard Problem: A Predictable Inexplicability Summary Full Text
David Brooks
Qualitative states are no threat to physicalism. They have a causal effect upon the world in virtue of their qualitative nature. This effect is exploited in biological mechanisms for representing the world. Representation requires differential responsiveness to different perceived properties of things. Qualia are taken to be tagged properties of internal representation models. These properties are properties for-the-organism. Such for-the-organism properties are to be expected in beings which perceive the world and interact with it intelligently. Consciousness presents a problem for science. Human beings (and probably some animals) are conscious of the world and of themselves. In so far as science has the ambition of explaining everything consciousness is another unexplained phenomenon. However some claim that it is distinctive and different in kind from other problems which science hopes to solve using methods which have been successful up until now. It may indeed be so different that we have to adopt a dualistic metaphysics and accept that there is more to the world than physics knows. In this paper I intend to outline how the physicalist should fight back.
General Organizational Principles of the Brain as Key to the Study of Animal Consciousness Summary Full Text
Ruud van den Bos
In this paper a framework to study consciousness in animals is proposed which is based on (i) a hierarchical organizational feedback model of the central nervous system, (ii) the separation of a given mental state into two components, i.e. an invariant part, and a variant part, which are separately related to the organization of the central nervous system, i.e. 'a neural network' and 'momentary active connections within the neural network determined by in- and output of this neural network' respectively, and (iii) phylogeny based on the invariant part or the presence of a neural network. Consciousness is defined as a property of neural networks of self-organizing systems dedicated to dealing with rapidly changing environments affording flexibility of behavioural patterning.
Clarifying the Triangular Circuit Theory of Attention and its Relations to Awareness Replies to Seven Commentaries Summary Full Text
David LaBerge
Replies are given to the commentaries of the seven cognitive science experts. Additional circuit diagrams clarify thalamic operations in attention and basal ganglia operations by which motivation affects attention. Selection-by-suppression and negative priming are accounted for within frontal control areas. Confusions between the terms awareness and consciousness persist, owing to the powerful habit of using awareness as a synonym for consciousness. Leaving consciousness as an umbrella term to denote many loosely-defined aspects of experience, the term awareness denotes the aspect of experience in which attention is directed to bodily sensations, thereby involving the self in ongoing experience.
The responses to the commentaries are organized under three main headings: (1) anatomical properties of the triangular circuit of attention; (2) functions of the triangular circuit in attention; and (3) relations of attention to awareness and self-awareness.
Dreaming and Consciousness:Testing the Threat Simulation Theory of the Function of Dreaming Summary Full Text
Antti Revonsuo, Katja Valli

We tested the new threat simulation theory of the biological function of dreaming by analysing 592 dreams from 52 subjects with a rating scale developed for quantifying threatening events in dreams. The main predictions were that dreams contain more frequent and more severe threats than waking life does; that dream threats are realistic; and that they primarily threaten the Dream Self who tends to behave in a relevant defensive manner in response to them. These predictions were confirmed and the theory empirically supported. We suggest that the threat simulation theory of dreaming may have wider implications for theories about the function of consciousness.
A Review Essay on Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness Summary Full Text
Aldo Mosca
Here I present a sympathetic but critical analysis of Damasio's latest book. I begin with a brief exposition of his neurobiological theory of emotion and then take issue with him on the cognitive and representational nature of emotional states. I discuss his view of consciousness as a second-order set of neural activations, which are allegedly intimately related to, and even necessary for, elementary emotional and homeodynamic processes. I find Damasio's account wanting in at least two respects. First, the relationship between emotional states and the consciousness thereof is left ambiguous. Second, Damasio lacks a clear psychological hypothesis about the hierarchy of first-, second-, and possibly third-order mental/neural states. The result is that a wealth of neurobiological information fails to be organized in a coherent conceptual scheme, and the whole account is ultimately unsatisfactory.
Change Detection: Paying Attention To Detail Summary Full Text
Erin Austen, James T. Enns
Changes made during a brief visual interruption sometimes go undetected, even when the object undergoing the change is at the center of the observer's interest and spatial attention (Simons and Levin, 1998). This study examined two potentially important attentional variables in change blindness: spatial distribution, manipulated via set size, and detail level, varied by having the change at either the global or local level of a compound letter. Experiment 1 revealed that both types of change were equally detectable in a single item, but that global change was detected more readily when attention was distributed among several items. Variation of target level probability in Experiment 2 showed further that observers could flexibly set the detail level in monitoring both single and multiple items. Sensitivity to change therefore depends not only on the spatial focus of attention; it depends critically on the match between the detail level of the change and the level-readiness of the observer.
Precis of The Significance of Consciousness Summary Full Text
Charles Siewert
The aims of this book are: to explain the notion of phenomenal consciousness in a non-metaphorical way that minimizes controversial assumptions; to characterize the relationship between the phenomenal character and intentionality of visual experience, visual imagery and non-imagistic thought; and to clarify the way in which conscious experience is intrinsically valuable to us. It argues for the legitimacy of a first-person approach to these issues--one which relies on a distinctively first-person warrant for judgments about one's own experience. Thought experiments are employed in which one is asked to conceive of having various forms of blindsight, so as to make consciousness intellectually conspicuous by its absence in such hypothetical scenarios. It is argued that theories of mind that would commit us to denying either the conceptual or the metaphysical possibility of these scenarios neglect the occurrence of consciousness in this phenomenal sense.
Sustained Inattentional Blindness: The Role of Location in the Detection of Unexpected Dynamic Events Summary Full Text
Steven B. Most, Daniel J. Simons, Brian J. Scholl, Christopher F. Chabris
Attempts to understand visual attention have produced models based on location, in which attention selects particular regions of space, and models based on other visual attributes (e.g., in which attention selects discrete objects or specific features). Previous studies of inattentional blindness have contributed to our understanding of attention by suggesting that the detection of an unexpected object depends on the distance of that object from the spatial focus of attention. When the distance of a briefly flashed object from both fixation and the focus of attention is systematically varied, detection appears to have a location-based component. However, the likelihood that people will detect an unexpected event in sustained and dynamic displays may depend on more than just spatial location. We investigated the influence of spatial location on inattentional blindness under precisely controlled, sustained and dynamic conditions. We found that although location-based models cannot fully account for the detection of unexpected objects, spatial location does play a role even when displays are visible for an extended period.
Perception, Attention and the Grand Illusion Summary Full Text
Alva Noƫ, J.Kevin O'Regan
This paper looks at two puzzles raised by the phenomenon of inattentional blindness. First, how can we see at all if, in order to see, we must first perceptually attend to that which we see? Second, if attention is required for perception, why does it seem to us as if we are perceptually aware of the whole detailed visual field when it is quite clear that we do not attend to all that detail? We offer a general framework for thinking about perception and perceptual consciousness that addresses these questions and we propose, in addition, an informal account of the relation between attention and consciousness. On this view, perceptual awareness is a species of attention.
Neuropsychological Analogies Of Inattentional Blindness Summary Full Text
Glyn W. Humphreys
I discuss the relations between the phenomenon of inattentional blindness and neuropsychological syndromes such as visual neglect, extinction and simultanagnosia. While there are similarities in the types of unconscious processing apparent in inattentional blindness and in these syndromes, there are also differences - for instance, grouping affects the reportability of stimuli in some neuropsychological syndromes but not necessarily in inattentional blindness. The reasons for such discrepancies, and the link between unconscious processing and underlying neural structures are discussed.
On Processing in the Inattention Paradigm as Automatic Summary Full Text
Joseph Tzelgov
In the critical trial of the "inattention paradigm" about 25% of the participants did not notice the target stimulus. A significant percent of these "inattentionally blind" subjects did not detect the target objects when explicitly asked about them. Nevertheless, in an implicit test these subjects showed that the target objects were processed. The "inattentionally blind" subjects in the inattention paradigm are blind to the critical stimulus in the same sense that subjects in the Stroop task are blind to the meaning of the presented words. In both cases blindness reflects the limitations of the representations resulting from automatic processing. Therefore, these results are best conceptualized as indicating automatic processing of unattended stimuli.