Do You Have Constant Tactile Experience of Your Feet in Your Shoes?   Or Is Experience Limited to What’s in Attention?

Journal of Consciousness Studies 14, no. 3, 5-35

Eric Schwitzgebel

According to rich views of consciousness (e.g., James, Searle), we have a constant, complex flow of experience (or “phenomenology”) in multiple modalities simultaneously.  According to thin views (e.g., Dennett, Mack and Rock), conscious experience is limited to one or a few topics, regions, objects, or modalities at a time.  Existing introspective and empirical arguments (including arguments from “inattentional blindness”) uniformly beg the question.  Participants in the present experiment wore beepers during everyday activity.  When a beep sounded, they were to take note of the conscious experience they were having at the last undisturbed moment immediately prior to the beep.  Some participants were asked to report any experience they could remember.  Others were asked simply to report whether there was visual experience or not (and if so, what it was).  Still others were asked about experience in the far right visual field, or tactile experience, or tactile experience in the left foot.  A majority of participants in the full experience and the visual conditions reported visual experience in every single sample.  Tactile and peripheral visual experience were reported less often.  However, the proper interpretation of these results is uncertain.  

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