Recent evidence that attention is necessary, but not sufficient, for conscious perception

Sean Noah, George R. Mangun

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Early descriptions of attention in the psychological literature highlighted its interdependence with conscious awareness. As the study of attention developed, consciousness and attention began to be considered separable phenomena, experimentally and theoretically. In recent years, an energetic debate has developed concerning the extent to which the two phenomena are related. One school of thought considers the two to be doubly dissociable, whereas the other considers them to be necessarily linked. In this review, we highlight experimental findings from the last 5 years that contribute to the leading consensus view: attention is necessary, but not sufficient, for conscious perception. We review studies that show attention operating in conjunction with unconscious information, and other evidence linking attention necessarily to conscious perception. By drawing upon evidence that attention comprises many cognitive and neural processes, we argue that by studying how different forms of attention are related to conscious perception, it is possible to gain new insights about the neural states or processes that are necessary for conscious perception to occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-63
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • attention
  • awareness
  • consciousness
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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