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Julia D. I. Meuwese, H. Steven Scholte, Victor A. F. Lamme; Does perceptual learning require consciousness or attention?. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):1105. doi: 10.1167/10.7.1105.
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It has been proposed that visual attention and consciousness are separate (Koch and Tsuchiya, 2007) and possibly even orthogonal processes (Lamme, 2003). The two converge when conscious visual percepts are attended, and hence become available for conscious report. A lack of reportability can however have two causes: the absence of attention or the absence of a conscious percept. This raises an important question in the field of perceptual learning. It is known that learning can occur in the absence of conscious reportability, but given the recent theoretical developments it is now suddenly unclear which of the two ingredients – consciousness or attention – is not necessary for learning. We present textured figure-ground stimuli, and manipulate reportability either by masking (which interferes with consciousness) or with an inattention paradigm (which only interferes with attention). During the second session (24 hours later) learning is assessed via differences in figure-ground ERPs and via a detection task. Preliminary findings suggest that early learning effects are found for stimuli presented in the inattention paradigm, and not for masked stimuli. These results suggest that learning requires consciousness, and not attention, and further strengthen the idea that consciousness is separate from attention.
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