Research Topic

Attention and consciousness in different senses

About this Research Topic

Although often used in everyday speech and in the scholarly literature, “selective attention” and “consciousness” lack clear, undisputed definitions. Partly because of this deficit there exists a lively debate on the relationship between the two. Nevertheless, attention has been studied scientifically for a ...

Although often used in everyday speech and in the scholarly literature, “selective attention” and “consciousness” lack clear, undisputed definitions. Partly because of this deficit there exists a lively debate on the relationship between the two. Nevertheless, attention has been studied scientifically for a long time, because a variety of tasks allow researchers to control several of its aspects (e.g. focused and feature-based attention).

Consciousness as a scientific subject of study has emerged more recently, but is now rapidly gaining traction. Scientific studies of consciousness concern the state or level of consciousness (e.g., awake as opposed to in coma, dreamless sleep or under anaesthesia) as well as the contents of consciousness or the phenomenology of perception.

With the increase in consciousness-focused research, there is a concomitant surge in research examining the relationship between attention and consciousness. This relationship between attention and consciousness is the topic of this Research Topic. Contributions related to or focused solely on attention or on consciousness will not be considered.

It had long been assumed that attention and consciousness are inextricably intertwined: two sides of the same coin. However, recently substantial evidence has emerged that attention and consciousness are interacting, but separable processes. It is however debated how tight the interactions are, and what the exact nature of the relationship is.

Therefore, we welcome researchers from different “camps” to provide opinionated but balanced literature reviews. Different groups will interpret the same data in different ways. We feel that combining these views in one Research Topic is immensely valuable to researchers from different fields. Apart from reviews we also encourage potential contributors to provide new and exciting evidence in the form of original contributions that may support any of the different views. Even though attention and consciousness are critical aspects of many different cognitive processes, they are mainly studied (though not exclusively) in the domain of visual perception. In other sensory modalities, e.g. olfaction or audition, it is currently not clear whether distinctions between attention and consciousness exist, which is even more true for other cognitive processes such as memory. Therefore, we specifically welcome contributions covering the auditory, somatosensory, olfactory, and memory domain.

We ask all contributors to provide discussions on the relationship between attention and consciousness, and focus on (1) the influence of attention on sensory processing; (2) the formation of conscious perception, (3) the evidence for unconscious processing and its modulation by attention; (4) potential indications for dissociations between attention and consciousness (e.g. does paying attention to a stimulus decrease performance on e.g. a discrimination task?); (5) neuroimaging and neurophysiology data pertaining to these questions.

Often, one is caught in one’s own research field and lacks the time or the knowledge to delve into another field. This Research Topic should provide a great overview in great breadth of the current state of knowledge on the links between attention and consciousness, and their interactions, in several different sensory modalities.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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