Saving Time: How Attention Explains the Utility of Supposedly Superfluous Representations

Cognitive Critique 1 (1):101-114 (2009)
I contend that Alva Noë’s Enactive Approach to Perception fails to give an adequate account of the periphery of attention. Noë claims that our peripheral experience is not produced by the brain’s representation of peripheral items, but rather by our mastery of sensorimotor skills and contingencies. I offer a two-pronged assault on this account of the periphery of attention. The first challenge comes from Mack and Rock’s work on inattentional blindness, and provides robust empirical evidence for the semantic processing (and hence representation) of some wholly unattended stimuli. The second challenge draws on LaBerge’s theory of attention to provide a substantial advantage to peripheral representations, saving time whenever we shift the focus of our attention to something which had been in the periphery, allowing us to respond to that thing more quickly than would be possible if Noë’s account of perception were correct.
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