Is perception cognitively penetrable? A philosophically satisfying and empirically testable reframing

Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society 1:91-2 (2013)
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The question of whether perception can be penetrated by cognition is in the limelight again. The reason this question keeps coming up is that there is so much at stake: Is it possible to have theory-neutral observation? Is it possible to study perception without recourse to expectations, context, and beliefs? What are the boundaries between perception, memory, and inference (and do they even exist)? Are findings from neuroscience that paint a picture of perception as an inherently bidirectional and interactive process relevant for understanding the relationship between cognition and perception? We have assembled a group of philosophers and psychologists who have been considering the thesis of cognitive (im)penetrability in light of these questions (Abdel Rahman & Sommer, 2008; Goldstone, Landy, & Brunel, 2011; Lupyan, Thompson-Schill, & Swingley, 2010; Macpherson, 2012; Stokes, 2011). Rather than rehashing previous arguments which appear, in retrospect, to have been somewhat ill-posed (Pylyshyn, 1999), this symposium will present a thesis of cognitive (im)penetrability that is at once philosophically satisfying, empirically testable, and relevant to the questions that cognitive scientists find most interesting.

Author Profiles

Fiona Macpherson
University of Glasgow
Dustin Stokes
University of Utah


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