Thinking, Attending, and Sensing

March 28, 2014 - March 29, 2014
Department of Philosophy, University of Utah

CTIHB-Tanner Library
215 South Central Campus Drive
Salt Lake City 84112
United States

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Marisa Carrasco (Psychology-NYU)

Felipe De Brigard (Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience-Duke)

Chris Mole (Philosophy-University of British Columbia)

Jeanine Stefanucci (Psychology-Utah)

David Strayer (Psychology-Utah)

Wayne Wu (Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition-Carnegie Mellon)

Closing roundtable participants: Steve Downes (Philosophy-Utah), Sarah Creem-Regehr (Psychology-Utah), William Thompson (Computer Science-Utah), Stephen Biggs (Philosophy, Iowa State)

Workshop Description:

Construed broadly, we are interested in bringing together researchers working on how attention can affect perceptual processing and experience, and how attention (or attentional mechanisms) might be driven by cognitive states like belief, or desire, or expectations. One way to frame this is in terms of 'cognitive penetration'. Cognitive scientists have debated whether so-called cognitive states can directly affect perceptual processing and thus, accordingly, perceptual experience. Put one way, the question is whether what one believes or desires can change how one, say, sees or hears something (that is, the appearance or sound of the stimulus is different by virtue of the background cognitive state/s). Those who maintain that the answer to this question is 'no'--that perception is cognitively impenetrable--often suggest that some alleged cases of cognitive penetration in fact just involve an act of attention, driven by cognitive states. So, for example, if one knows or wants to see something in a certain way (say the duck-rabbit image as a duck) then one directs attention in the appropriate way and, accordingly, has the desired experience. This, the critic urges, is not a relevantly special phenomenon. But here the critic assumes that the only way that attention might mediate between cognition and perception is through what the philosopher calls an intentional act of attention (e.g. doing something with one's body to change the attentional focus). And it would seem that more careful analyses of attention and its relation to both cognition and perception might yield more nuanced alternatives (e.g. perhaps non-intentional or automatic attentional selection mechanisms can be influenced by expectations and, in turn, influence perception). One goal of this workshop is to explore some of these alternatives.

For more information, contact Dustin Stokes at [email protected] 

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