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Trends Cogn Sci. 2003 Jan;7(1):12-18.

Why visual attention and awareness are different.

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Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Room A626, Roeterstraat 15, 1018 WB, and The Netherlands Ophthalmic Research Institute., Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Now that the study of consciousness is warmly embraced by cognitive scientists, much confusion seems to arise between the concepts of visual attention and visual awareness. Often, visual awareness is equated to what is in the focus of attention. There are, however, two sets of arguments to separate attention from awareness: a psychological/theoretical one and a neurobiological one. By combining these arguments I present definitions of visual attention and awareness that clearly distinguish between the two, yet explain why attention and awareness are so intricately related. In fact, there seems more overlap between mechanisms of memory and awareness than between those of attention and awareness.

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