A new empirical challenge for local theories of consciousness

Mind and Language (forthcoming)
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Local theories of consciousness state that one is conscious of a feature if it is adequately represented and processed in sensory brain areas, given some background conditions. We challenge the core prediction of local theories based on recently discovered long-lasting postdictive effects demonstrating that features can be represented for hundreds of milliseconds in perceptual areas without being consciously perceived. Unlike previous empirical data aimed against local theories, proponents of local theories cannot explain these effects away by conjecturing that subjects are phenomenally conscious of features that they cannot report. Only a strong and counterintuitive version of this claim can account for long-lasting postdictive effects. Although possible, we argue that adopting this strong version of the “overflow hypothesis” would have the effect of nullifying the weight of the evidence taken to support local theories of consciousness in the first place. We also discuss several alternative explanations that proponents of local theories could offer.
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Archival date: 2020-04-30
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