Attention and perceptual organization
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- Jennings, C.D. Philos Stud (2015) 172: 1265. doi:10.1007/s11098-014-0348-2
How does attention contribute to perceptual experience? Within cognitive science, attention is known to contribute to the organization of sensory features into perceptual objects, or “object-based organization.” The current paper tackles a different type of organization and thus suggests a different role for attention in conscious perception. Within every perceptual experience we find that more subjectively interesting percepts stand out in the foreground, whereas less subjectively interesting percepts are relegated to the background. The sight of a sycamore often gains the visual foreground for a nature lover, whereas the sound of a violin often gains the auditory foreground for a music lover, but not necessarily vice versa. How does the perceptual system organize early sensory processing according to the subject’s interests? The current paper reveals how this subject-based organization is brought about and maintained through top-down attention. In fact, the current paper argues that top-down attention is necessary for conscious perception in so far as it is necessary for bringing about and maintaining the subject-based organization of perceptual experience.