Perception and Cognition Are Largely Independent, but Still Affect Each Other in Systematic Ways: Arguments from Evolution and the Consciousness-Attention Dissociation

Frontiers in Psychology 8:1-15 (2017)
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The main thesis of this paper is that two prevailing theories about cognitive penetration are too extreme, namely, the view that cognitive penetration is pervasive and the view that there is a sharp and fundamental distinction between cognition and perception, which precludes any type of cognitive penetration. These opposite views have clear merits and empirical support. To eliminate this puzzling situation, we present an alternative theoretical approach that incorporates the merits of these views into a broader and more nuanced explanatory framework. A key argument we present in favor of this framework concerns the evolution of intentionality and perceptual capacities. An implication of this argument is that cases of cognitive penetration must have evolved more recently and that this is compatible with the cognitive impenetrability of early perceptual stages of processing information. A theoretical approach that explains why this should be the case is the consciousness and attention dissociation framework. The paper discusses why concepts, particularly issues concerning concept acquisition, play an important role in the interaction between perception and cognition.

Author Profiles

Carlos Montemayor
San Francisco State University
Harry Haladjian
Université Paris Descartes


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