The old and new criterion problems

In Juraj Hvorecký, Tomas Marvan & Michal Polak (eds.), Conscious and Unconscious Mentality. Routledge. pp. 130-154 (2023)
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Negative subjective reports such as “I didn’t see the stimulus” can be interpreted as indicating either that the subject didn’t see the stimulus, or as indicating that, while the subject did see the stimulus, the strength of sensory signals associated with the stimulus fell below a conservative criterion for answering “seen”. Determining which of these two interpretations is correct is the criterion problem. I present two ways in which researchers can solve this problem. But there’s more. What I call the “new criterion problem” consists in determining whether criteria effects reflect perceptual changes, or changes in response strategy. Through case studies, I argue that this new version of the problem can be solved as well, although there is currently no systematic way to solve it. I conclude that criterion problems do not constitute good reasons for skepticism about the scientific study of consciousness.

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Matthias Michel
New York University


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