Content-Matching: The Case of Sensory Memory and Phenomenal Consciousness

  • Elizabeth Irvine
Part of the Studies in Brain and Mind book series (SIBM, volume 5)


Another aspect of consciousness science is the attempt to match the contents of consciousness to a suitable psychological or neural correlate. A case study is used to introduce and explore this approach. This is the recent claim that the rich contents of phenomenal consciousness can be found in the contents of sensory memory, based largely on Sperling’s finding of partial report superiority. By outlining the properties of sensory memory found in contemporary psychological theories, it is argued that this claim cannot be sustained. The relevant properties of sensory memory are not consistent with the apparent properties of phenomenal consciousness. It is further argued that reports of rich conscious content can be traced to the processing of scene gist, not item-specific information. This case study of the content-matching approach suggests that accounts of the contents of consciousness may be at odds with the contents of perceptual processing. The way this affects the strategy of content-matching, and consciousness science more generally, is discussed in the next chapter.


Sensory Memory Phenomenal Consciousness Visible Persistence Phenomenal Experience Partial Report 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Integrative NeuroscienceUniversity of TuebingenTuebingenGermany

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