Dr. Albert Newen, 4:00pm, February 21st

Albert Newen
Institute for Philosophy
Center for Mind, Brain, and Cognitive Evolution
Ruhr University, Bochum

"Cognition and Perception: Does higher-order background information influence our perceptual experience?"

To what extent is our perceptual experience influenced by higher cognitive phenomena like beliefs, desires, concepts, templates? Given recent arguments against the possibility of cognitive penetration, I present strong evidence against the impenetrability claims. The weak impenetrability claim cannot account for (1) extensive structural feedback organization of the brain, (2) temporally very early feedback loops and (3) functional top-down processes modulating early visual processes by category-specific information. The strong impenetrability claim could incorporate these data by widening the ‘‘perceptual module” such that it includes rich but still internal processing in a very large perceptual module.

I argue that this latter view leads to an implausible version of a module. Therefore, we have to accept cognitive penetration of our perceptual experience as the best theoretical account so far given the available empirical evidence. Finally, consequences for the relation between perception and cognition are discussed.