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The Attentional Shaping of Perceptual Experience

Springer 2020

This monograph presents a clear account of when and how background beliefs can shape perceptual experience through attentional processes. This argument is based on a prediction-error minimisation model of the mind. The hypothesis that cognition may shape perceptual experience has traditionally been labeled as the cognitive penetrability of perceptual experience. Cognitive penetrability is relevant for several debates in philosophy and cognitive science. It tackles the possibility of gathering genuine knowledge on the basis of perceptual information about the world delivered by sensory channels. The problem, as many authors note, is that if our previously acquired beliefs can shape current perceptual experiences, such experiences cannot serve as an adequate source of justification in retaining those beliefs or even forming new ones. I argue that even if sometimes cognitive penetration may happen through attentional processes, its occurrence need not undermine perceptual justification. In addition, the book provides an overview of the cognitive penetrability debate and a discussion of empirical evidence that supports the occurrence of this phenomenon. Finally, and most importantly, this investigation offers readers a philosophical discussion of attention based on the biased-competition theory. Construing attention as a property of mental representations that emerges from a metacognitive competition process.

Peer-Reviewed Articles






  • Syntactic structures and the conscious awareness of language experience. An intermediate-level hypothesis. With Giacomo Romano. Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia, 5, 169-183.

Book chapters


  • Concepts and their organizational structure: Concepts are templates based on mental files. With Albert Newen. In Hommen, D., Kann, C. and Oswald, T. Concepts and categorization: Systematic and historical perspectives. Mentis, pp.197-227​

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