Cognitive Penetration and Attention

Frontiers in Psychology 8:1-12 (2017)
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Zenon Pylyshyn argues that cognitively driven attentional effects do not amount to cognitive penetration of early vision because such effects occur either before or after early vision. Critics object that in fact such effects occur at all levels of perceptual processing. We argue that Pylyshyn’s claim is correct—but not for the reason he emphasizes. Even if his critics are correct that attentional effects are not external to early vision, these effects do not satisfy Pylyshyn’s requirements that the effects be direct and exhibit semantic coherence. In addition, we distinguish our defense from those found in recent work by Raftopoulos and by Firestone and Scholl, argue that attention should not be assimilated to expectation, and discuss alternative characterizations of cognitive penetrability, advocating a kind of pluralism.

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Steven Gross
Johns Hopkins University


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