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Conscious Cogn. 2009 Jun;18(2):561-4; discussion 565-7. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2009.01.003. Epub 2009 Feb 24.

Access is mainly a second-order process: SDT models whether phenomenally (first-order) conscious states are accessed by reflectively (second-order) conscious processes.

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  • 1University of Michigan Medical Center, Adult Ambulatory Psychiatry, B1519 Rachel Upjohn Bldng, 4250 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA.


Access can either be first-order or second-order. First order access concerns whether contents achieve representation in phenomenal consciousness at all; second-order access concerns whether phenomenally conscious contents are selected for metacognitive, higher order processing by reflective consciousness. When the optional and flexible nature of second-order access is kept in mind, there remain strong reasons to believe that exclusion failure can indeed isolate phenomenally conscious stimuli that are not so accessed. Irvine's [Irvine, E. (2009). Signal detection theory, the exclusion failure paradigm and weak consciousness-Evidence for the access/phenomenal distinction? Consciousness and Cognition.] partial access argument fails because exclusion failure is indeed due to lack of second-order access, not insufficient phenomenally conscious information. Further, the enable account conforms with both qualitative differences and subjective report, and is simpler than the endow account. Finally, although first-order access may be a distinct and important process, second-order access arguably reflects the core meaning of access generally.

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