Experienced Cognition

Experienced Cognition

Experienced Cognition

Experienced Cognition


This volume presents a theoretical framework for understanding consciousness and learning. Drawing on work in cognitive psychology and philosophy, this framework begins with the observation that to be conscious is literally to have a point of view. From this starting point, the book develops a descriptive scheme that allows perceptual, symbolic, and emotional awareness to be discussed in common theoretical terms, compatible with a computational view of the mind. A central theme is our experience of ourselves as agents, consciously controlling activities situated in environments. In contrast to previous theories of consciousness, the experienced cognition framework emphasizes the changes in conscious control as individuals acquire skills.

The book is divided into four parts. The first introduces the central themes and places them in the context of information-processing theory and empirical research on cognitive skill. The second develops the theoretical framework, emphasizing the unity of perceptual, symbolic, and emotional awareness and the relation of conscious to nonconscious processes. The third applies the experienced cognition framework to a variety of topics in cognitive psychology, including working memory, problem solving, and reasoning. It also includes discussions of everyday action, skill, and expertise, focusing on changes in conscious control with increasing fluency. The last concludes the book by evaluating the recent debate on the "cognitive unconscious" and implicit cognition from the perspective of experienced cognition, and considering the prospects for a cognitive psychology focused on persons.

This book addresses many of the issues raised in philosophical treatments of consciousness from the point of view of empirical cognitive psychology. For example, the structure of conscious mental states is addressed by considering how to describe them in terms of variables suitable for information-processing theory. Understanding conscious states in this way also provides a basis for developing empirical hypotheses, for example, about the relation of emotion and cognition, about the apparent "mindlessness" of skilled activity, and about the nature and role of goals in guiding activity. Criticisms of the computational view of mind are addressed by showing that the role of first-person perspectives in cognition can be described and investigated in theoretical terms compatible with a broadly-conceived information-processing theory of cognition.


Consciousness is a difficult topic. It is often avoided by cognitive scientists, especially those with a commitment to "hard," experimental laboratory research on cognition. Yet each of us is conscious, and there is no more fundamental topic for cognitive theory. This book is about consciousness and cognitive skill--cognition as we experience it and as we become experienced. in this book, I describe a theoretical framework, experienced cognition, for understanding cognition at the level of the conscious mental states that make up our stream of awareness. the central idea of this framework is the cospecification hypothesis: that an experiencing self and experienced objects are simultaneously specified in the information available to perception and from memory. the major theme of my argument is that this hypothesis allows us to describe consciousness in a way that is consistent with the critical assumptions of current cognitive theory. a great deal of available empirical and theoretical research on cognition contributes to our understanding of consciousness, and the experienced cognition framework is founded on that research.

My goal is to develop a theory of consciousness that works from the point of view of experimental cognitive psychology. in contrast to many writers, I believe that a scientific understanding of consciousness is desirable and possible, and can enrich both our cognitive theories and our understanding of ourselves as persons. My primary audience is cognitive psychologists, but I believe that this book will be of interest to scholars in the other cognitive sciences and related disciplines who are interested in consciousness and cognition.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.