Conceptual and Empirical Issues about Perception, Attention and Consciousness

Instructors: Ned Block and David Carmel

Tuesdays 6-8, 5 Washington Place, 2nd floor

Requirements for those taking the course for credit: two 10 page papers, one at midterm, the other at the end of the course.

Readings from before April 19th are available here.

Readings for May 3rd will be posted later

April 19: Iconic Memory and Indeterminacy


This is a lot of reading.  For those who want to skip the Kouider et al articles, I think an adequate summary will be presented in class.


Ned Block (2008). Consciousness and Cognitive Access. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 108, Issue 1 pt 3 (October 2008), p. 289-317 
Ian Phillips (2011).
 Perception and Iconic Memory: What Sperling DoesnŐt Show. Mind and Language 
James Stazicker (2011).
Attention, Visual Consciousness, and Indeterminacy. Mind and Language 26, 2, 156-184.  Published Version 

Sid Kouider, Vincent de Gardelle, Jerome Sackur & Emmanuel Dupoux (2010), ŇHow Rich is consciousness?  The partial awareness hypothesisÓ.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14, 301-307.  Also here

Background for the Kouider, article that tells the whole truth (not revealed in the TiCS article) about the methods used is here:

Vincent de Gardelle, Jerome Sackur, Sid Kouider (2009), Perceptual Illusions in brief visual presentations, Consciousness and Cognition 18, 569-577

April 26 Conscious state – how to tell whether someone (or something) is conscious, and what can the brain do in the absence of consciousness?

For class: 

This seems like a lot, but items 1-4 are each one page or less! 
1. Owen et al (2006). Detecting awareness in the vegetative state. Science 313, p 1402. 
2. Nachev & Hussain (2007). Comment on Owen et al. Science 315, p 1221a.
3. Greenberg (2007). Comment on Owen et al. Science 315, p 1221b. 
4. Owen et al (2007). Response to comments. Science 315, p 1221c. 
5. Monti et al (2010). Willful modulation of brain activity in disorders of consciousness. New England Journal of Medicine, 10.1056/NEJMoa0905370 
Steven Laureys. Eyes open, brain shut. Scientific American, May 2007. 

Additional reading: 

1. Stins, J. F. (2009). Establishing consciousness in non-communicative patients: A modern-day version of the Turing test. Consciousness and Cognition 18, 187–192. 
2. Gray et al (2007). Dimensions of mind perception. Science 315, p 619. 
3. Beckinschtein et al (2009). Classical conditioning in the vegetative and minimally conscious state. Nature Neuroscience 12(10), p 1343.
4. Davis et al (2007). Dissociating speech perception and comprehension at reduced levels of awareness. PNAS 104, 16032–16037. 
5. Boly et al (2008). Intrinsic Brain Activity in Altered States of Consciousness: How Conscious Is the Default Mode of Brain Function? Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1129: 119–129.
6. Owen et al (2006). Supplementary Online Material for Detecting awareness in the vegetative state. Science 313.

May 3  Jesse PrinzŐs forthcoming book on Consciousness

These chapters are available only via the password that was distributed in class.  If you are in the class but have forgotten the password, you can email Ned Block at

Discussion in class will probably mainly be about Chapters 3 and 8.

Chapter 3: When Does Consciousness Arise? Attention and Availability

Chapter 5: Why Are We Conscious? A Menu for Action

Chapter 7: How Is Consciousness Unified?  Attentional Resonance    

Chapter 8: What is Consciousness? A Neurofunctionalist Account