Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Andrea Scarantino
Dr. Eddy Nahmias
Dr. Gwen Frishkoff
Dr. Michael Owren
Jesse Prinz proposes that attended intermediate-level representations (AIRs) are sufficient for conscious awareness. He extends this claim to emotion, arguing that attention is the mechanism that separates conscious from unconscious emotions. Prior studies call this entailment into question. However, they do not directly address the intermediate-level requirement, and thus cannot decisively refute the AIR theory of consciousness. This thesis tests that theory by manipulating participants’ attention to different features of subliminally processed words while recording both behavioral and electroencephalogram (EEG) data. Both measures suggest that subliminally processed stimuli are attended according to participants’ conscious intention to complete a task. In addition, the EEG data demonstrate that intermediate-level neural activity was modulated by the subliminal stimuli. Thus, these results suggest that AIRs are not sufficient for conscious emotion. This finding undermines Prinz’s AIR theory, and its account of the distinction between conscious and unconscious emotion.
Stenson, Anais F., "A Test of Prinz's Air Theory: Is Attention Sufficient for Conscious Emotion?" (2012). Philosophy Theses. Paper 117.
Available for download on Wednesday, July 10, 2013