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.