15 Toward a Cognitive Psychology of Persons

Our own awareness of what, who, and where we are, and what we experience, is a fact of nature more certain than any observations we can make, or any measures we can take, of other existences, relations, and happenings beyond the reach of our immediate experience. --Tulving, 1994, p. x

But a psychologist can no more evade consciousness than a physicist can side-step gravity. --Baars, 1988, p. xvi

We will know what science can tell us only after it has done so. --Akins, 1993, p. 272

Cognition is experienced by individual persons engaged in purposeful activity in their environments, and it is this personal experience that is consciousness, the "constitutive problem of psychology" ( Miller, 1985, p. 40). Yet cognitive scientists often have developed their theories in ways that explicitly (e.g., Dennett, 1987) or implicitly (see chapter 2) disregard person-level concepts. As a consequence, the literature of cognitive science is filled with euphemisms: "the system understands," "the central executive decides," "the brain plans action," and so on. Because our explicit theory is often officially subpersonal, it is easily seen as dehumanizing. And critics of cognitive science, both in our universities and our popular press, are using this subpersonal character of cognitive theory in support of alternative approaches to understanding human activity that can only be called antiscientific.

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