Cause and Effect Theories of Attention: The Role of Conceptual Metaphors

Abstract
Scientific concepts are defined by metaphors. These metaphors determine what attention is and what count as adequate explanations of the phenomenon. The authors analyze these metaphors within 3 types of attention theories: (a) “cause” theories, in which attention is presumed to modulate information processing (e.g., attention as a spotlight; attention as a limited resource); (b) “effect” theories, in which attention is considered to be a by-product of information processing (e.g., the competition metaphor); and (c) hybrid theories that combine cause and effect aspects (e.g., biasedcompetition models). The present analysis reveals the crucial role of metaphors in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and the efforts of scientists to find a resolution to the classic problem of cause versus effect interpretations.
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