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An Agent of Attention: An Inquiry into the Source of Our Control

Dissertation, University of Toronto (2019)

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  1. Explaining Behavior: Reasons in a World of Causes.Fred Dretske - 1988 - MIT Press.
    In this lucid portrayal of human behavior, Fred Dretske provides an original account of the way reasons function in the causal explanation of behavior.
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  • Motivation and agency.Alfred R. Mele - 2003 - New York: Oxford University Press.
    What place does motivation have in the lives of intelligent agents? Mele's answer is sensitive to the concerns of philosophers of mind and moral philosophers and informed by empirical work. He offers a distinctive, comprehensive, attractive view of human agency. This book stands boldly at the intersection of philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, and metaphysics.
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  • What is Conscious Attention?Wayne Wu - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):93-120.
    Perceptual attention is essential to both thought and agency, for there is arguably no demonstrative thought or bodily action without it. Psychologists and philosophers since William James have taken attention to be a ubiquitous and distinctive form of consciousness, one that leaves a characteristic mark on perceptual experience. As a process of selecting specific perceptual inputs, attention influences the way things perceptually appear. It may then seem that it is a specific feature of perceptual representation that constitutes what it is (...)
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  • Experts and Deviants: The Story of Agentive Control.Wayne Wu - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (1):101-26.
    This essay argues that current theories of action fail to explain agentive control because they have left out a psychological capacity central to control: attention. This makes it impossible to give a complete account of the mental antecedents that generate action. By investigating attention, and in particular the intention-attention nexus, we can characterize the functional role of intention in an illuminating way, explicate agentive control so that we have a uniform explanation of basic cases of causal deviance in action as (...)
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  • Against Division: Consciousness, Information and the Visual Streams.Wayne Wu - 2014 - Mind and Language 29 (4):383-406.
    Milner and Goodale's influential account of the primate cortical visual streams involves a division of consciousness between them, for it is the ventral stream that has the responsibility for visual consciousness. Hence, the dorsal visual stream is a ‘zombie’ stream. In this article, I argue that certain information carried by the dorsal stream likely plays a central role in the egocentric spatial content of experience, especially the experience of visual spatial constancy. Thus, the dorsal stream contributes to a pervasive feature (...)
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  • Confronting Many-Many Problems: Attention and Agentive Control.Wayne Wu - 2011 - Noûs 45 (1):50-76.
    I argue that when perception plays a guiding role in intentional bodily action, it is a necessary part of that action. The argument begins with a challenge that necessarily arises for embodied agents, what I call the Many-Many Problem. The Problem is named after its most common case where agents face too many perceptual inputs and too many possible behavioral outputs. Action requires a solution to the Many-Many Problem by selection of a specific linkage between input and output. In bodily (...)
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  • 7. What Happens When Someone Acts?J. David Velleman - 1993 - In John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza (eds.), Perspectives on Moral Responsibility. Cornell University Press. pp. 188-210.
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  • What Happens When Someone Acts?J. David Velleman - 1992 - Mind 101 (403):461-481.
    What happens when someone acts? A familiar answer goes like this. There is something that the agent wants, and there is an action that he believes conducive to its attainment. His desire for the end, and his belief in the action as a means, justify taking the action, and they jointly cause an intention to take it, which in turn causes the corresponding movements of the agent's body. I think that the standard story is flawed in several respects. The flaw (...)
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  • The Possibility of Practical Reason.J. David Velleman - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 121 (3):263-275.
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  • The Possibility of Practical Reason.J. David Velleman - 1996 - Ethics 106 (4):694-726.
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  • Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
    John Searle's Speech Acts and Expression and Meaning developed a highly original and influential approach to the study of language. But behind both works lay the assumption that the philosophy of language is in the end a branch of the philosophy of the mind: speech acts are forms of human action and represent just one example of the mind's capacity to relate the human organism to the world. The present book is concerned with these biologically fundamental capacities, and, though third (...)
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  • Vision, Self‐Location, and the Phenomenology of the 'Point of View'.John Schwenkler - 2012 - Noûs 48 (1):137-155.
    According to the Self-Location Thesis, one’s own location can be among the things that visual experience represents, even when one’s body is entirely out of view. By contrast, the Minimal View denies this, and says that visual experience represents things only as "to the right", etc., and never as "to the right of me". But the Minimal View is phenomenologically inadequate: it cannot explain the difference between a visual experience of self-motion and one of an oppositely moving world. To show (...)
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  • Perception.Henry Habberley Price - 1932 - Westport, Conn.: Methuen & Co..
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  • The problem of the essential indexical.John Perry - 1979 - Noûs 13 (1):3-21.
    Perry argues that certain sorts of indexicals are 'essential', in the sense that they cannot be eliminated in favor of descriptions. This paper also introduces the influential idea that certain sorts of indexicals play a special role in thought, and have a special connection to action.
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  • A Study of Concepts.Christopher Peacocke - 1992 - MIT Press.
    Philosophers from Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein to the recent realists and antirealists have sought to answer the question, What are concepts? This book provides a detailed, systematic, and accessible introduction to an original philosophical theory of concepts that Christopher Peacocke has developed in recent years to explain facts about the nature of thought, including its systematic character, its relations to truth and reference, and its normative dimension. Particular concepts are also treated within the general framework: perceptual concepts, logical concepts, and (...)
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  • The Phenomenology of Action: A Conceptual Framework.Elisabeth Pacherie - 2008 - Cognition 107 (1):179 - 217.
    After a long period of neglect, the phenomenology of action has recently regained its place in the agenda of philosophers and scientists alike. The recent explosion of interest in the topic highlights its complexity. The purpose of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework allowing for a more precise characterization of the many facets of the phenomenology of agency, of how they are related and of their possible sources. The key assumption guiding this attempt is that the processes through (...)
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  • What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
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  • Illusions, Demonstratives and the Zombie Action Hypothesis.Christopher Mole - 2009 - Mind 118 (472):995-1011.
    David Milner and Melvyn Goodale, and the many psychologists and philosophers who have been influenced by their work, claim that ‘the visual system that gives us our visual experience of the world is not the same system that guides our movements in the world’. The arguments that have been offered for this surprising claim place considerable weight on two sources of evidence — visual form agnosia and the reaching behaviour of normal subjects when picking up objects that induce visual illusions. (...)
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  • Mind and the World-Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge.Clarence Irving Lewis - 1956 - New York,: Dover Publications.
    Theory of "conceptual pragmatism" takes into account both modern philosophical thought and modern mathematics. Stimulating discussions of metaphysics, a priori, philosophic method, much more.
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  • Embodied savoir-faire: knowledge-how requires motor representations.Neil Levy - 2017 - Synthese 194 (2).
    I argue that the intellectualist account of knowledge-how, according to which agents have the knowledge-how to \ in virtue of standing in an appropriate relation to a proposition, is only half right. On the composition view defended here, knowledge-how at least typically requires both propositional knowledge and motor representations. Motor representations are not mere dispositions to behavior because they have representational content, and they play a central role in realizing the intelligence in knowledge-how. But since motor representations are not propositional, (...)
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  • The Erotetic Theory of Attention: Questions, Focus and Distraction.Philipp Koralus - 2014 - Mind and Language 29 (1):26-50.
    Attention has a role in much of perception, thought, and action. On the erotetic theory, the functional role of attention is a matter of the relationship between questions and what counts as answers to those questions. Questions encode the completion conditions of tasks for cognitive control purposes, and degrees of attention are degrees of sensitivity to the occurrence of answers. Questions and answers are representational contents given precise characterizations using tools from formal semantics, though attention does not depend on language. (...)
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  • How to define an object: Evidence from the effects of action on perception and attention.Glyn W. Humphreys & M. Jane Riddoch - 2007 - Mind and Language 22 (5):534–547.
    We present work demonstrating that the nature of an object for our visual system depends on the actions we are programming and on the presence of action relations between stimuli. For example, patients who show visual extinction are more likely to become aware of two objects if the objects fall in appropriate visual locations for a common action. This effect of the action relations between objects is modulated both by the familiarity of the positioning of the objects for action, and (...)
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  • They’ve lost control: reflections on skill.Ellen Fridland - 2014 - Synthese 191 (12):2729-2750.
    In this paper, I submit that it is the controlled part of skilled action, that is, that part of an action that accounts for the exact, nuanced ways in which a skilled performer modifies, adjusts and guides her performance for which an adequate, philosophical theory of skill must account. I will argue that neither Jason Stanley nor Hubert Dreyfus have an adequate account of control. Further, and perhaps surprisingly, I will argue that both Stanley and Dreyfus relinquish an account of (...)
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  • Skill and motor control: intelligence all the way down.Ellen Fridland - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (6):1-22.
    When reflecting on the nature of skilled action, it is easy to fall into familiar dichotomies such that one construes the flexibility and intelligence of skill at the level of intentional states while characterizing the automatic motor processes that constitute motor skill execution as learned but fixed, invariant, bottom-up, brute-causal responses. In this essay, I will argue that this picture of skilled, automatic, motor processes is overly simplistic. Specifically, I will argue that an adequate account of the learned motor routines (...)
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  • Skill and motor control: intelligence all the way down.Ellen Fridland - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (6):1539-1560.
    When reflecting on the nature of skilled action, it is easy to fall into familiar dichotomies such that one construes the flexibility and intelligence of skill at the level of intentional states while characterizing the automatic motor processes that constitute motor skill execution as learned but fixed, invariant, bottom-up, brute-causal responses. In this essay, I will argue that this picture of skilled, automatic, motor processes is overly simplistic. Specifically, I will argue that an adequate account of the learned motor routines (...)
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  • Knowing‐how: Problems and Considerations.Ellen Fridland - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (3):703-727.
    In recent years, a debate concerning the nature of knowing-how has emerged between intellectualists who claim that knowledge-how is reducible to knowledge-that and anti-intellectualists who claim that knowledge-how comprises a unique and irreducible knowledge category. The arguments between these two camps have clustered largely around two issues: intellectualists object to Gilbert Ryle's assertion that knowing-how is a kind of ability, and anti-intellectualists take issue with Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson's positive, intellectualist account of knowing-how. Like most anti-intellectualists, in this paper (...)
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  • Salience, relevance, and firing: a priority map for target selection.Jillian H. Fecteau & Douglas P. Munoz - 2006 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10 (8):382-390.
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  • The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by John Henry McDowell.
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  • Shifting visual attention between objects and locations: Evidence from normal and parietal lesion subjects.R. Egly, J. Driver & R. D. Rafal - 1994 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 123 (2):161-177.
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  • Visual Experience and Motor Action: Are the Bonds Too Tight?Andy Clark - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (4):495.
    How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this idea is hostage to empirical fortune. (...)
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  • Reference and Consciousness.John Campbell - 2002 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
    John Campbell investigates how consciousness of the world explains our ability to think about the world; how our ability to think about objects we can see depends on our capacity for conscious visual attention to those things. He illuminates classical problems about thought, reference, and experience by looking at the underlying psychological mechanisms on which conscious attention depends.
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  • Conscious Vision for Action Versus Unconscious Vision for Action?Berit Brogaard - 2011 - Cognitive Science 35 (6):1076-1104.
    David Milner and Melvyn Goodale’s dissociation hypothesis is commonly taken to state that there are two functionally specialized cortical streams of visual processing originating in striate (V1) cortex: a dorsal, action-related “unconscious” stream and a ventral, perception-related “conscious” stream. As Milner and Goodale acknowledge, findings from blindsight studies suggest a more sophisticated picture that replaces the distinction between unconscious vision for action and conscious vision for perception with a tripartite division between unconscious vision for action, conscious vision for perception, and (...)
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  • Top-down versus bottom-up attentional control: a failed theoretical dichotomy.Edward Awh, Artem V. Belopolsky & Jan Theeuwes - 2012 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 16 (8):437.
    Prominent models of attentional control assert a dichotomy between top-down and bottom-up control, with the former determined by current selection goals and the latter determined by physical salience. This theoretical dichotomy, however, fails to explain a growing number of cases in which neither current goals nor physical salience can account for strong selection biases. For example, equally salient stimuli associated with reward can capture attention, even when this contradicts current selection goals. Thus, although 'top-down' sources of bias are sometimes defined (...)
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  • The Visual Brain in Action.David Milner & Mel Goodale - 2006 - Oxford University Press.
    First published in 1995, The Visual Brain in Action remains a seminal publication in the cognitive sciences. For this new edition, a very substantial and illustrated epilogue has been added to the book in which Milner and Goodale review the key developments that support or challenge the views that were put forward in the first edition.
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  • A Metaphysics for Freedom.Helen Steward - 2012 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
    Helen Steward argues that determinism is incompatible with agency itself--not only the special human variety of agency, but also powers which can be accorded to animal agents. She offers a distinctive, non-dualistic version of libertarianism, rooted in a conception of what biological forms of organisation might make possible in the way of freedom.
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  • Motor Cognition: What Actions Tell the Self.Marc Jeannerod - 2006 - Oxford University Press.
    Our ability to acknowledge and recognise our own identity - our 'self' - is a characteristic doubtless unique to humans. Where does this feeling come from? How does the combination of neurophysiological processes coupled with our interaction with the outside world construct this coherent identity? We know that our social interactions contribute via the eyes, ears etc. However, our self is not only influenced by our senses. It is also influenced by the actions we perform and those we see others (...)
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  • Effortless Attention: A New Perspective in the Cognitive Science of Attention and Action.Brian Bruya (ed.) - 2010 - MIT Press.
    This is the first book to explore the cognitive science of effortless attention and action. Attention and action are generally understood to require effort, and the expectation is that under normal circumstances effort increases to meet rising demand. Sometimes, however, attention and action seem to flow effortlessly despite high demand. Effortless attention and action have been documented across a range of normal activities--from rock climbing to chess playing--and yet fundamental questions about the cognitive science of effortlessness have gone largely unasked. (...)
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  • Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
    John Searle's Speech Acts and Expression and Meaning developed a highly original and influential approach to the study of language. But behind both works lay the assumption that the philosophy of language is in the end a branch of the philosophy of the mind: speech acts are forms of human action and represent just one example of the mind's capacity to relate the human organism to the world. The present book is concerned with these biologically fundamental capacities, and, though third (...)
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  • Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of the Emotions.Jesse J. Prinz - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
    Gut Reactions is an interdisciplinary defense of the claim that emotions are perceptions of changes in the body.
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  • The Emotional Mind : A Control Theory of Affective States.Tom Cochrane - 2018 - Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    In this book, Tom Cochrane develops a new control theory of the emotions and related affective states. Grounded in the basic principle of negative feedback control, his original account outlines a new fundamental kind of mental content called 'valent representation'. Upon this foundation, Cochrane constructs new models for emotions, pains and pleasures, moods, expressive behaviours, evaluative reasoning, personality traits and long-term character commitments. These various states are presented as increasingly sophisticated layers of regulative control, which together underpin the architecture of (...)
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  • Thought in Action: Expertise and the Conscious Mind.Barbara Gail Montero - 2016 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press UK.
    How does thinking affect doing? There is a widely held view that thinking about what you are doing, as you are doing it, hinders performance. Once you have acquired the ability to putt a golf ball, play an arpeggio on the piano, or parallel-park, reflecting on your actions leads to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis--that's what is widely believed. But is it true? After exploring some of the contemporary and historical manifestations of the idea, Barbara Gail Montero develops (...)
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  • Fixing Reference.Imogen Dickie - 2015 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
    Imogen Dickie develops an account of aboutness-fixing for thoughts about ordinary objects, and of reference-fixing for the singular terms we use to express them. Extant discussions of this topic tread a weary path through descriptivist proposals, causalist alternatives, and attempts to combine the most attractive elements of each. The account developed here is a new beginning. It starts with two basic principles, the first of which connects aboutness and truth, and the second of which connects truth and justification. These principles (...)
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  • Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind.Andy Clark - 2015 - New York: Oxford University Press USA.
    How is it that thoroughly physical material beings such as ourselves can think, dream, feel, create and understand ideas, theories and concepts? How does mere matter give rise to all these non-material mental states, including consciousness itself? An answer to this central question of our existence is emerging at the busy intersection of neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, and robotics.In this groundbreaking work, philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark explores exciting new theories from these fields that reveal minds like ours to (...)
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  • The Centered Mind: What the Science of Working Memory Shows Us About the Nature of Human Thought.Peter Carruthers - 2015 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
    The Centered Mind offers a new view of the nature and causal determinants of both reflective thinking and, more generally, the stream of consciousness. Peter Carruthers argues that conscious thought is always sensory-based, relying on the resources of the working-memory system. This system enables sensory images to be sustained and manipulated through attentional signals directed at midlevel sensory areas of the brain. When abstract conceptual representations are bound into these images, we consciously experience ourselves as making judgments or arriving at (...)
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  • The Varieties of Consciousness.Uriah Kriegel - 2015 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    Recent work on consciousness has featured a number of debates on the existence and character of controversial types of phenomenal experience. Perhaps the best-known is the debate over the existence of a sui generis, irreducible cognitive phenomenology – a phenomenology proper to thought. Another concerns the existence of a sui generis phenomenology of agency. Such debates bring up a more general question: how many types of sui generis, irreducible, basic, primitive phenomenology do we have to posit to just be able (...)
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  • Attention improves or impairs visual performance by enhancing spatial resolution.Y. Yeshurun & M. Carrasco - 1998 - Nature 396:72-75.
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  • The Significance of Attention.Sebastian Watzl - 2010 - Dissertation, Columbia University
    This dissertation investigates the nature, the phenomenal character and the philosophical significance of attention. According to its central thesis, attention is the ongoing mental activity of structuring the stream of consciousness or phenomenal field. The dissertation connects the scientific study of attention in psychology and the neurosciences with central discussions in the philosophy of mind. Once we get clear on the nature and the phenomenal character of attention, we can make progress toward understanding foundational issues concerning the nature and the (...)
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  • Why explain visual experience in terms of content?Adam Pautz - 2010 - In Bence Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World. Oxford University Press. pp. 254--309.
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  • Attention and Cognitive Penetration.Christopher Mole - 2015 - In John Zeimbekis & Athanassios Raftopoulos (eds.), The Cognitive Penetrability of Perception: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 218-238.
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  • Attention is Cognitive Unison.Christopher Mole - 2005 - Dissertation, Princeton University
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