A Theory of Visibility Measures in the Dissociation Paradigm

29 Aug 2022  ·  Thomas Schmidt, Melanie Biafora ·

Research on perception without awareness primarily relies on the dissociation paradigm, which compares a measure of awareness of a critical stimulus (direct measures) with a measure indicating that the stimulus has been processed at all (indirect measure). We argue that dissociations between direct and indirect measures can only be demonstrated with respect to the critical stimulus feature that generates the indirect effect, and the observer's awareness of that feature, the critical cue. We expand Kahneman's (1968) concept of criterion content to comprise the set of all cues than an observer actually uses to perform the direct task. Different direct measures can then be compared by studying the overlap of their criterion contents and their containment of the critical cue. Because objective and subjective measures may integrate different sets of cues, one measure generally cannot replace the other without sacrificing important information. Using a simple mathematical formalization, we redefine and clarify the concepts of validity, exclusiveness, and exhaustiveness in the dissociation paradigm, show how dissociations among different awareness measures falsify simple theories of consciousness, and formulate the demand that theories of visual awareness should be sufficiently specific to explain dissociations among different facets of awareness.

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