Perceptual consciousness overflows cognitive access

Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (12):567-575 (2011)
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Abstract

One of the most important issues concerning the foundations ofconscious perception centerson thequestion of whether perceptual consciousness is rich or sparse. The overflow argument uses a form of ‘iconic memory’ toarguethatperceptual consciousnessisricher (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 argumenthas 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 and (ii) an unmotivated form of unconscious representation that in some cases conflicts with what we know about unconscious representation.

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Ned Block
New York University

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