Nonconscious perception, conscious awareness and attention

Consciousness and Cognition 21 (1):584-586 (2012)
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Because it is unclear how a nonconscious stimulus is cognitively processed, there is uncertainty concerning variables that modulate the processing. In this context recent findings of a set of neuroimaging experiments are important. These findings suggest that conscious and nonconscious stimuli activate same areas of the brain during performance of a similar task. Further, different areas are activated when a task is performed with or without awareness of processing. It appears that the neural network involved in cognitive processing depends on the awareness of processing rather than awareness of perception. Since conscious and nonconscious cognitive processing use separate neural networks, each processing is modulated by different variables. Attention modulates most conscious cognitive processing and most, but not all, nonconscious processing is attention dependent. Nonconscious tasks that require attentional resources, with or without conscious awareness, are processed using the attention dependent system. Further, because attention dependent and attention independent tasks are processed by separate neural networks, the cognitive processing and modulating variables can be understood better if cognitive tasks are defined as attention dependent or attention independent, rather than conscious or nonconscious.

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