The mental phenomenon of attention is often thought of metaphorically as a kind of spotlight: we focus our attention on a particular item or...

The mental phenomenon of attention is often thought of metaphorically as a kind of spotlight: we focus our attention on a particular item or task, our attention is divided or diffused when we try to text and drive at the same time, and our attention is captured when we suddenly hear our name pop out from the conversational hubbub of a noisy party. But what is attention? How seriously should we take this or other metaphors as giving us insight into the nature of attention? In Attention (Routledge, 2014) Wayne Wu argues for the view that attention is selection for action and is distinct from consciousness. This controversial position pits him against more common views that attention is in some sense essentially connected to consciousness – for example, that it is a kind of gatekeeper for consciousness. Wu, an Associate Professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, draws on empirical literature from psychology and neuroscience to develop his view while acknowledging how difficult it is to interpret results so as to support one theory or another.

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