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Philosophical Perspectives, 21, Philosophy of Mind, 2007

WHAT CHANGE BLINDNESS TEACHES ABOUT ∗ CONSCIOUSNESS

Fred Dretske Duke University

Change blindness is often described as a failure of subjects with normal vision to see the visible objects and/or properties whose presence or absence constitutes a difference (change) in sequentially observed scenes. The evidence used to support this charge of blindness is the failure of subjects to notice or detect the difference these objects and properties make. If, though, one doesn’t have to notice a difference in order to be conscious of the objects and properties making up that difference, the striking deficits revealed by change blindness tell one absolutely nothing about what a person is conscious of. They reveal nothing about perceptual experience. They reveal something, perhaps, about what a person knows or doesn’t know, what she thinks or doesn’t think, but nothing about what she sees or fails to see. This critical assumption—that noticing or detecting differences is necessary for awareness of the things constituting the difference—is an assumption that many participants in this research would happily admit to making. More often than not it is simply taken for granted. For many psychologists and philosophers, conscious perception of objects just is perception of them (usually understood as the receipt of information about them) with an associated awareness that one perceives them. In philosophy the idea is expressed by HOT (higher-orderthought), a theory of consciousness according to which conscious experience is simply experience one knows and, therefore, thinks one is having.1 In psychology the assumption is called the subjective test for awareness, a widely accepted operational criterion that identifies conscious experience with experience the subject knows she is having and is, therefore, able to report having.2 Despite its widespread acceptance, though, this assumption is false. It is false in a way that seriously distorts the character of perceptual experience. It represents conscious experience as informationally more impoverished—and, therefore, less rich and textured—than it actually is. Ridding oneself of this assumption, then, is an important step in getting a clearer, a more realistic, account of perceptual experience.

We are not interested in what Sarah knows. If there is any doubt about this. She thinks he was there the first time. on her second observation. Sarah looks at seven people gathered around a table. hence. she still doesn’t realize that he wasn’t there the first time. for whatever reason. Given the situation as I’ve described it. We are interested in what Sarah sees.” This is an example of what psychologists call change blindness—a clearly visible difference that Sarah does not see. she is blind to. The question is whether this is a genuine case of blindness. Each person is clearly visible. she doesn’t notice the difference. is primed to look for people in blue shirts. Seeing and Noticing The first lesson of change blindness is that one can be conscious of elements constituting a visible difference without ever realizing there is such a difference. the sort of case familiar from the change blindness literature. Change blindness exhibits a failure to notice (and.4 Sarah’s failure to see the difference (that there is a change) in the group of people around the table is perfectly consistent with her seeing Sam in a fully conscious way. as was her experience of the other seven people. She says she doesn’t see it. Sam is the only one wearing a blue shirt. the person who makes up . not what. She believes she sees the same people she saw the first time. it seems entirely reasonable to say that Sarah not only saw Sam the second time. an additional person—call him Sam—joins the group. she is ignorant of. There are now eight visible people. Having no reason to suspect a change has occurred. When Sarah looks back. as we say. Sarah says. but whether she is. things one notices or attends to. The question we are now asking is not whether Sarah thinks she is aware of something different. Sam. she was not aware of the fact that she was aware of something different. know) not a failure to see. is not the question. So on the assumption that one sees. Nonetheless. foveates3 each person at the table. When asked whether she sees a difference. she thinks she is looking at the same group of people. Sarah looks for a few seconds. in fact. While looking away. if anything. a person who constitutes a visible difference) without fact-awareness that there is a difference. but that her experience of him was of the same kind. runs her eye. aware of something different. “No. Let’s begin with an ordinary example. At least she doesn’t believe she sees it. Not seeing the difference—that there is a difference—is consistent with seeing whatever it is that makes that difference. Did Sarah actually see Sam the second time without noticing him? If so. but that. is fully conscious of. She then looks away. remember. is fully conscious of. Sam is clearly visible. therefore. We want to know what. Sarah. if anything. but that she (not looking for blue shirts then) didn’t notice him. This is what I have elsewhere called object-awareness (of Sam.216 / Fred Dretske 1. but she pays no particular attention to any of them. a fully conscious experience. over and. Sarah notices him during her second observation. imagine that in the interval between her first and second observation Sarah.

as a result. You didn’t. be exceedingly strange if Sarah. maybe. does her visual system somehow know that Sam is a new. it seems to me. If Sarah looks at seven hundred people in a room. fails to report on) a difference that she consciously experiences. on her second observation. he tells you he was standing directly in front of the fruit stand you looked at several times. This. a half dozen people). after you’ve found him. isn’t she aware of anyone at the table? If Sarah is. see the apples on the stand directly behind him. was conscious. fails to detect (therefore. demonstrates quite conclusively the irrelevance of change blindness to conscious perception of the objects (and properties) constituting the difference. aware of some people around the table. seven thousand in a parade. One can be conscious of objects that constitute a visible difference and not be conscious of the fact that one is conscious of them. for instance. consciously.” Wrong! You probably did see him. all clearly visible from where . every object and/or property) that people who notice the difference see.5 One can be “blind” to visible differences and still see everything (i. Her visual experience the second time was different from what it was the first time. the same way she saw all seven people the first time—viz.What Change Blindness Teaches / 217 a difference. or seventy thousand in a soccer stadium. It is more appropriately described as change ignorance. as she says. after all. Later. aware of more than one realizes. scanned by the blues. Why does she only fail to see. plead blindness: “I didn’t see you. and often is. despite Sarah’s protests (she thinks she saw. standing in your line of sight only a few yards away in broad daylight. blocking your view of them. on both occasions. He was. You are looking for a friend in a crowded marketplace. This is why we cannot use change blindness to conclude anything about what subjects are conscious of—especially not when dealing with complex.. an additional.e. remains ignorant of and. create a localized blindness—a scotoma—that prevents her perception of just him? That sounds absurd. and the experience. So you must have seen him. not a visual. Change blindness is a cognitive. were only aware of the same seven people she saw the first time. Sam? Why not one or more of the other seven people? Or. multi-element stimuli. hence. in effect. Only that one can be. You can’t find him. impairment. why is she only blind to. a different member of the group and. while still failing to realize that there is (or that he constitutes) a difference in the group of people she saw on the two occasions. The reason you didn’t see the apples is because he was in front of them. It seems more plausible to suppose that on the second viewing Sarah saw Sam in the same way she saw every other person around the table. without pausing to study faces. after all. I’m not arguing that a person is always conscious of all visible elements in a complex display. You just didn’t recognize him.6 It would. You. The reason you didn’t recognize him is that you mistakenly thought he wore his red sweater today so you. browns and grays you saw in the crowd.. Sarah simply fails to notice. You certainly didn’t see through him.

about Sarah’s second observation. makes perception conscious? If Sarah isn’t the authority on whom or what she is conscious of. The picture on the wall behind Sam could not attract her attention because she doesn’t see it. what does? This brings us to a second lesson of change blindness. 2. It is conscious perception. does she see them all? I don’t know. He would have attracted her attention.000 light years. Sam is in front of it. who is? If it isn’t her thinking she sees him that makes her perception of Sam conscious. Although no one captures Sarah’s attention. because I am standing behind her. She can’t see me. A question about whether Sarah is conscious of Sam. though. you perceive x with awareness. She probably doesn’t see all of them. would have been noticed. I couldn’t attract her attention. could she (not did she. But Sam. then. Whether it is an illusion seems to me to be an empirical matter (I return to this point in §3). That doesn’t prevent their being seen. any member of this group. in dimly lit rooms. If you get enough information—and this isn’t much—from x to enable you to wonder of or about x “What is that?”. It may be an illusion. If this is the correct way to interpret the results of change blindness—at least some cases of change blindness—then the first lesson to be learned from change blindness is that noticing or detecting x is not necessary for being conscious of x. if you don’t have to notice or detect it to be conscious of it. then. or if he had been stark naked. at least not while she is looking at the group around the table. if he had been wearing a clown costume. including Sam. could be put this way: when Sarah sees the group the second time. This.218 / Fred Dretske she is sitting. The subjective impression of having seen hundreds. leaves us with a troubling question. The . Information about color isn’t necessary or we wouldn’t be able to see things at dusk. without knowing anything about it (this is the first lesson). or in peripheral vision. It depends on how much and what kind of information one actually gets about these individual objects. awareness of it is constituted by an experience that enables on to have direct knowledge of it. could attract her attention. Think. but could she) have wondered “Who is that?” about Sam? She can wonder this without ever realizing he wasn’t there the first time. and it is important to remember here that not much information about an object is needed to see it. Things look pretty much the same shape at 600 yards or (in the case of stars) 1. She certainly sees a lot of them. of distinct elements in such conditions (I readily concede to Dan Dennett 1991) may be an illusion. If you don’t have to know you are aware of something to be aware of it. if he had been standing on his head. Seeing and Knowing Though one can see an object without realizing it. You can be conscious of x and not think you are. even thousands. You can be conscious of things that make a difference and think you are not. Information about shape isn’t necessary. what. once again.

it is true. Yet she has.e. She didn’t. This is what happens in Sarah’s case. It gives us knowledge of them. but that everyone was wearing something or other was clear enough. None of them were. A judgment only occurred later.. I know there weren’t because I could see there weren’t. for my current conscious and expressible beliefs about the person. Sarah. he is standing upright. The fact that Sarah would have noticed him if he had been naked or standing on his head suggests7 that Sarah is getting sensory information about Sam—the information that he has clothes on and is standing upright. he isn’t dressed like a clown. the justification. my current beliefs about my room qualify as perceptual knowledge on the basis of the experience I had this morning. Her experience of Sam is conscious for the same reason my experience of Sam is conscious: the experience (in my case) justifies and (in Sarah’s case) it is capable of justifying a conscious judgment about the objects seen. Both experiences carried the information that made this knowledge possible. At the time Sarah sees Sam. Her testimony goes as follows: if. about Sam as the new or a different member of the group (this is the fact she is “blind” to—i. pay enough attention to tell you what anyone was wearing. Sam was standing at that table the second time I looked. I could see that much. What makes my experience of the person conscious is that information embodied in this experience is the basis. as you tell me. ignorant of). The man I’m talking to. I can assure you he was not naked. about Sam as one of the people she saw around that table. Perceptual knowledge of the world is sometimes of this delayed sort. I didn’t have giraffe thoughts at the time. visual experience supports. is standing upright. He is not standing on his head. a host of beliefs we have about the things we see. . How do I know this? I can see that it is so. My judgments.What Change Blindness Teaches / 219 same is true of the other seven people. it grounds. perhaps. The only difference between Sarah and me is that Sarah’s judgments were deferred. She gets the same information about every member of the group. when she was asked about the people around the table. nonetheless. a great deal of information about him. She doesn’t think anything at all about Sam. it is true. she doesn’t think to herself: that guy is wearing clothes. of course. the sort that Sarah has of Sam when she later thinks about the people she saw earlier. on the other hand. Sam. in her experience of him. about Sam by name (she doesn’t know who Sam is). This is the kind of perceptual knowledge I might have (or acquire) when someone asks me about whether there were any giraffes in my bedroom this morning. But experiences can carry such information without generating any beliefs at the time they occur. information she can later exploit in telling us something about the men she saw around the table. She doesn’t even notice him. but. She was an eyewitness. therefore. it justifies. and if. but now that I think about it. We can even imagine her asked to testify about Sam’s behavior at a wild party. as you assure me. Under normal circumstances and with respect to objects we are attentive to. no one was blocking my view of him. not. can tell you something about Sam—not. were cotemporaneous with the experience on which they were based.

This suggests an epistemic test for awareness. The rough idea (refinements in a moment) is that if you can see (and thereby know) that x is F for some value of F. it is true. know (by vision) things about the fleas on Fido (that none of them are the size of a basketball). (2) The perceptual knowledge in question must be of x’s possession of some property or feature that does not affect visibility. Size affects visibility. charitably. how easily . not some information-carrying intermediary. for instance. She knew it all along despite not thinking about it until asked. Color. for instance—not by the way x (Sam) looks. at the time she saw them. that none of the people at that table were naked. Seeing a photograph of x. just find this out. The fact that. that it is F. by seeing. being clothed in a crowd of naked people) affects how much attention you will attract. We do not want to infer. The knowledge of x. and dress. Being naked in a crowd of clothed people (or. are not like that. perhaps. And one can hear Sarah insisting that she knew. So the fact that you can see (hence. that none of the people around that table were wearing clown suits. orientation. you must be aware of x. Two qualifications are important. that S sees (from ten yards away) a flea on Fido just because S can tell (see). Sarah knows things about Sam. but not its visibility. however. at the time.8 then since Sam was one of the people at that table. or a prearranged signal from a knowledgeable accomplice will do. shape. but by the way something else looks. all she needed to know. So she must have seen him.220 / Fred Dretske This sort of delayed perceptual knowledge is such a pervasive phenomenon that we often. she will insist. The fact that she didn’t. So it must be understood in this test that the perceptual knowledge of x must be (what I will call) direct. even if she paid no attention to him. She didn’t think about it until now. Even if Sarah didn’t notice Sam. for that matter. that none of the fleas on Fido are the size of a basketball. does not mean you can see x just because x is a flea on Fido. that x is F without being conscious of x. (1) You can. In these conditions and at this distance you can see things the size of a basketball but not things the size of a flea. then she must have seen him. but she has. see that x is F—that Sam has clothes on. must be the result of the way x itself looks. if she could see that he was (or wasn’t) F for some value of F. I knew this morning that there weren’t any giraffes in my room despite not thinking about it until now. You can. the indications of an appropriate measuring instrument. You can’t know. These properties affect an object’s noticeability (how much attention they attract). from the general appearance of things. give ourselves knowledge at the time at which the experience occurred despite the absence (at the time) of any belief or judgment. see that this was so (she had no thoughts at all about this subject) is irrelevant. of course. know) that nothing on Fido is the size of a basketball. She didn’t. So if Sarah now knows—or could know—based on her past visual experience of the group. without any change in her experience. a knowledge test for what a subject is conscious of. she could have known it and the fact that now a judgment based on that experience qualifies as knowledge shows that her conscious experience carried this kind of information about Sam. but from this it does not follow that you see the fleas on Fido. from her experience of the group.

It will “stand out” in a very conspicuous way. Reactions to Sam..g. her justification.What Change Blindness Teaches / 221 you will be noticed. She will not be able to see (and in that way know) that Sam is standing upright. She knows he wasn’t standing on his head. could give you) direct knowledge of x where the “direct” means that the knowledge is the result of the way x itself (and not. 3. They will be guesses— correct guesses. for example. Operational Criteria for Consciousness I expect to be told that if this is what change blindness teaches about consciousness. rather. change blindness doesn’t teach us anything very useful. know) that x possesses. for whatever judgments she makes about Sam. That is what conscious perception of Sam provides. perhaps. without change in the experience. But its color doesn’t make it visible. But how do we tell whether Sarah knows things about Sam? How do we tell whether Sam is one of the people she sees to be standing upright? . It certainly doesn’t give us a way of telling whether Sarah was aware of Sam.10 Sarah’s judgments about Sam. however. A person who is not conscious of Sam might receive visually transmitted information about Sam. given these qualifications. but camouflage doesn’t make me invisible. and what remains may (given a liberal enough interpretation of what perception is) qualify as perception of that object. It is important to understand that this test is not a simple informational test. but it does not make you (as opposed to the parts of your body) visible. as you do. will not add up to knowledge. a photograph or a measuring instrument) looks. are not guesses.. The information may even causally influence the judgments the person makes about Sam. She knows it because she could see he wasn’t. You are conscious of x if your experience gives you (or. the person says and does what she does (e. its role in grounding a conscious judgment (belief) that is important. play a part in the explanation. but it will not be conscious perception. therefore. if they occur at all. detecting or finding me) by wearing camouflage. This is why I can prevent you from noticing (and. But without consciousness these facts about Sam will not be a subject’s reason. The green squares are just as visible. gets so many correct answers in a forced-choice situation). in the case of perception of an object without awareness of it (e. Facts about Sam may. the suggested epistemic test for awareness is this: S is consciously aware of x if and only if there are Fs (that do not affect x’s visibility) that S can directly see (hence.9 So. We are told that Sarah is aware of Sam if she knows (or could know) things about Sam by the way he looks. Remove this epistemic dimension. say. No guessing about it. It is. It is not just information about x that is critical for awareness of x since one can get information about x without ever being conscious of x.g. the reasons why. A red square in a crowd of green squares will be the one you notice first. blindsight). if they are reliably caused by information being received about Sam—but guesses nonetheless. the epistemological role of this information. in this way.

no behavioral test or criterion for showing that she is conscious of him. something about every brick. in worrying about whether Sarah is conscious of Sam if such awareness need make absolutely no difference to Sarah’s reactions to or dispositions toward Sam? One doesn’t have to be logical positivist to want facts about a person’s conscious experience to give rise to something observable (to others). exactly the same thing—that all the people at the table are standing upright—if. I use a wall containing several hundred bricks as an example of a multi-element stimulus. though. can help us here. subjects. As long as there is no way of telling whether Sarah is aware of Sam.222 / Fred Dretske Sarah would believe. Sam. perhaps most. Do you see a difference? Probably not. because of localized blindness (or because someone was standing in front of Sam). I use a more dramatic example of change blindness than Sarah’s perception of Sam. We are not now interested. a brick wall with a few bricks missing. despite a failure to see differences. it is of no help to be told that Sarah is aware of Sam if she knows. how this might be demonstrated. Not if we can’t tell whether she knows things about Sam. Seeing a difference in the number of bricks is seeing that there is a difference. in particular. (identified in Figure 3) the added brick in Figure 2? Did Sam make a difference in your conscious experience of the wall? Was your conscious experience of the wall different when you looked at Figure 2? Since you didn’t see the difference between Figures 1 and 2. it seems. So even if Sarah knows something about Sam. that many. at Figure 1. despite an inability to see differences. by seeing. The answer I give and hope to illustrate by use of the epistemological test for awareness is the same as I reached in the case of Sarah: namely. It is as if she didn’t. . from the standpoint of finding out whether Sarah was aware of Sam. Without that. in what facts you saw. or their experience of the wall enables them to know. They know. When you look again (Figure 2) the wall has changed. were any of you conscious of. are nonetheless aware of the bricks that constitute the difference and. the purpose. there will remain a suspicion that such questions are really bogus. But (for those of you with normal vision) I do. especially the idea of it as an epistemologically enabling condition. and I assume most of you didn’t see this fact. she wasn’t aware of Sam. at least she would say. It is as if Sam wasn’t even there. This is a fair comment and it raises a genuine issue that I want to confront in this final section. if they are. I think what we have already learned about conscious experience. One of the missing bricks has been replaced. are nonetheless aware of all the bricks in the wall and. So. from an operational standpoint. there cannot be a science of consciousness. Look. the brick(s) that make the difference. then. We are interested in what bricks you saw. The question I ask is whether normal subjects during brief observations (2 or 3 seconds). that assorted things are true of him. I don’t expect you to know the answer to this question. she doesn’t know she does. What is the scientific point. To illustrate the way it helps. Did any of you see.

He would have “popped out. according to our proposed test for awareness which tells us that you are aware of an object if your experience enables you to know things about it by the way it looks. When you viewed Figure 2 your experience of it was rich enough in information to give you knowledge of each brick in the wall—that it was neither black nor tilted.11 Of course you didn’t know—and perhaps you are still not convinced—that you had this perceptual knowledge of Sam during your second observation . A brick wall (with some missing bricks) Look at Figure 4. you know that none of the bricks in the wall were black or tilted. So he wasn’t either black or tilted. This is how the wall would have looked to you if Sam had been black instead of grey. you were conscious not only of Sam but of every brick in the wall. Since Sam was one of the bricks in the wall. you know that Sam was neither black nor tilted. You would have spotted Sam immediately. if you can (directly) see that it is F for some value of F (that does not affect its visibility).” But you didn’t notice Sam.What Change Blindness Teaches / 223 Figure 1. You know the wall didn’t look these ways when you saw it the second time. Look at Figure 5: that is how the wall would have looked to you if Sam had been tilted instead of horizontal. Thinking back on your experience of Figure 2. You would have noticed it if it had. So.

12 and since Sam was one of those bricks. If some other object had occluded Sam. even if you accept the epistemological test for awareness. Nonetheless. and came to know it by the way these bricks looked. you came to know this of some bricks. Figures 4 and 5 are meant to convince you that during the second observation your experience of the bricks was such that you could know (see) that Sam was neither black nor tilted. then you may be ready to concede: you were aware of Sam. and this knowledge was based on the way Sam looked to you. Maybe. you knew this of Sam. you can’t be sure you were conscious of Sam. therefore. but how can you be sure you came to know this of Sam—not to mention each and every brick? If you can’t be sure of this. the way Sam looked to you that told you that none of the bricks were black or tilted. So it is the way Sam .224 / Fred Dretske Figure 2. It was. You knew this. you will say. you would be unable to tell whether none of the bricks were black or tilted. I understand and sympathize with such agnosticism. Sam did not look some way to you. because you knew that none of the bricks in that wall were black or tilted. I claim. then. If you in fact came to know this of Sam. But you may not yet be convinced that you came to know this of Sam in particular. if. in part. The same brick wall (with one missing brick replaced) (Figure 2).

distinguishes Sam from other bricks in the wall. again and again. controlling as much as possible for time of observation and direction(s) of gaze in order to see whether you could tell whether any brick was black or tilted. if not knowledge. Since nothing. after brief (a few seconds13 ) observations. show that this is a reasonable conclusion about the particular brick we are calling Sam. Figures 4 and 5. I submit. If there is doubt about this. except location. you can tell whether any brick is black or tilted—we can conclude that such brief observations give you knowledge (or. We can show the wall. summarize. it is a reasonable conclusion about every other brick in the wall. then the kind of perceptual experience needed for knowledge) about each and every brick in the wall.What Change Blindness Teaches / 225 Figure 3. the argument that observers of normal vision— most of them anyway—are (in observations of a few seconds) aware of every . it could be tested. you saw them all. then. The added brick (SAM) identified looks that is essential for your knowing what you do about the wall. Let me. Since it is the way individual bricks look that gives one this knowledge (cover any one of the bricks and you destroy a person’s ability to tell whether any of the bricks are black or tilted). If results are the same—if.

and you don’t know whether there were the same number of bricks in Figure 1 and Figure 2. First Step: Observers of normal vision will see some bricks when looking at Figures 1 and 2. I assume that normal observers’ experience of the wall in Figures 1 and 2 is not like that. if vision is such that one could not. Their experience of the wall is not.226 / Fred Dretske Figure 4. They will see individual bricks in the wall. you were conscious of individual bricks in the wall. When you looked at the brick wall. then it seems clear that such a person did not see—therefore. like seeing a flock of geese or a herd of cows at a great distance where the collection is seen (it looks like a spot in the distance) but individual members of the collection are not discriminated. If I am wrong about this. They will not just see a brick wall in the sense of a collection (pile. but observers of normal vision will be quite sure they see individual bricks both times. I do not consider them observers of normal vision. You don’t know how many you saw. . at this distance and illumination. I mean to exclude from consideration such people. How figure 2 would have looked if SAM had been black brick in the wall despite not being able to see differences in the number of bricks they see. in other words. see individual bricks when looking at these figures. heap) of bricks. was not conscious of—Sam in Figure 2.

We would have to see if this is true of each of the other bricks. you didn’t get the information that it was grey like . Something (a speck in your eye) obscured it. If you aren’t sure your conscious experience of the wall justifies such a knowledge claim (that it actually carried this information) and are. you (those who saw individual bricks) could see (and. If so. although you saw many bricks when looking at the wall. this could be tested. Or perhaps #247 was seen only peripherally (unlikely with the numerous saccades occurring in the few seconds you viewed Figure 2) and information about its color (black or grey) was lacking. At the time you saw them you acquired. reluctant to say you knew (or could now know) that (in viewing Figure 2) none of the bricks were black or tilted. Does the collection of bricks you saw look different to you if any brick is black or tilted? Figures 4 and 5 are meant to convince you that the collection of bricks would have looked different if Sam was black or tilted. Your conscious experience of the wall carried this kind of information about the bricks. How figure 2 would have looked if SAM had been tilted Second Step: In looking at Figure 2. a piece of perceptual knowledge—that none of the bricks were either black or tilted. or could have acquired. therefore. hence.What Change Blindness Teaches / 227 Figure 5. Perhaps. could in this way know) that none of the bricks were black or tilted. you didn’t see brick #247.

Lycan 1987. Connecticut. that normal observers are observers who view these figures in accordance with instructions: for several seconds with both eyes at reasonably close range. the way individual bricks look to normal observers that gives them this information. an area about 1 mm square on the retina densely packed with photoreceptor cells. So you didn’t actually get information about #247. 2. 1986. carried information about each and every brick—that it was neither black nor tilted—is an empirical matter. Or perhaps #247 projected to the blindspot in your left eye and you (contrary to instructions) viewed Figure 2 with only your left eye for only 50 milliseconds (during which no eye movements occurred). I would particularly like to thank Chris ¨ ¨ Boorse at Delaware and (at Connecticut) Gunnar Bjornsson (from Goteborg University).228 / Fred Dretske the other bricks. the ASSC-10 meetings in Oxford. I assume. Paul Bloomfield. however. 1990. Notes ∗ 1. Cover or conceal one or more of the bricks and the kind of reliability we take to be characteristic of knowledge vanishes. is what perceptual consciousness provides. I assume this is most people. and Eastwood 2001. Dennett 1978. That. and this knowledge is direct (it is the way x looks that carries this information). Underwood 1996. The claim is that these people will know that none of the bricks were black or tilted. One can no longer see whether none of the bricks are black or tilted. Dretske (1999). . So whether or not your experience. Dehaene 2001. The perceptual knowledge is grounded in a conscious experience of the objects one acquires knowledge about. Merikle. and Crawford Elder for saying things that prompted me to make changes. I conclude. I am grateful for the buffeting this paper received at places I read early versions: Delaware. See Cheesman and Merikle 1984. It gives us knowledge of the world around us. Dienes and Perner 1996. during your observation of Figure 2. epistemic perception. 3. 4. and Armstrong 1968. This is a distinction I earlier described (in Dretske 1969) as nonepistemic vs. 1992. Maybe it did. Dixon 1981. Step 3: So normal observers—those who I describe in steps 1 and 2—when looking at Figure 2 were conscious of all the bricks in the wall. So normal observers have direct perceptual knowledge of each and every brick. Vision is most acute when the image of an object falls on this part of the retina. maybe it didn’t. Smilek. To foveate an object is to direct the eyes so that light from the object is directed onto the fovea. Rosenthal 1986. This conclusion is reached by applying the proposed criterion of awareness: if you can see that x is neither black nor tilted. and Wayne State University. Istanbul (Bogozici University). you must be aware of x. 1991 is an early and articulate exponent. It is. Potter 1999. furthermore. 2000. Kanwisher 2001. also see Carruthers 1989.

Subjects perceive things. remember. It suggests this. of course. of forced choices in blindsight studies and stem completion choices in priming studies of implicit (unconscious) perception. I believe. It isn’t the wall behind the paper. They certainly see something in that part of the wall.. It should go without saying that I have no objection to an interpretation of change blindness as a cognitive phenomenon.What Change Blindness Teaches / 229 5. Sarah can know of Sam that he is (isn’t) F without knowing who it is—viz. They certainly don’t emit or reflect light. especially pp. these results are. Wolfe (1999) describes “change blindness” not as a form of blindness. Incidentally. I return to this point later. I am saying one has 350 distinct pieces of knowledge about individual bricks in the wall. a failure to know. Sam—that she knows this about. Often an investigator’s interpretation of the experiments is clouded by use of words like “detect” to describe what subjects fail to do when confronted with differences. on deeper reflection. This is de re knowledge of each and every member of the group.. of all the bricks in the wall—is perfectly consistent with the claim that there is no conscious perception without attention. to know that it is occurring)? If the latter is what is meant. Maybe its movement causes you to redirect your gaze so that you now see it when you didn’t see it before. if it moved. see where it is) do they nonetheless still see the paper? Yes. doesn’t show that you saw x when it wasn’t moving. perfectly acceptable. an object in peripheral vision. but as a form of amnesia. I assume here that facts—including the fact that there is a difference—are neither visible nor invisible. 8. notice. The fact that you would notice x. the person ( = Sam) who makes a difference. then. if you paste a white sheet of paper on a matching white wall (perfect camouflage) so that people cannot distinguish the paper from its surroundings (cannot. understand or realize. This leads to some results that are superficially counterintuitive. 163-65) or objects fall in a “zone” of attention (see Chapter 4) their attentional demands on consciousness are satisfied. In their careful study of inattentional blindness Mack and Rock (1998) do not require attention to each and every object consciously perceived. but one .” One might know something general in nature. but. that none of the bricks are black or tilted. Assuming that you looked attentively at Figures 1 and 2 for a few seconds. you satisfied their demands on consciousness of each and every brick in the wall even though you paid no particular attention to any of them. Once again (see footnote 8) it is important to understand the de re character of this putative knowledge. This is why Sarah can know of (or about) the added person at the table. my claim that one is conscious of individual bricks in the wall— perhaps. why call it blindness? 6. even. 12. but it doesn’t demonstrate it. In saying that one knows that none of the bricks are black or tilted. 7. As long as there is what they describe as “distributed” attention (Chapter 7.e. I am thinking here. What else is left? 10. 9. they just don’t remember well enough to report the perceived differences. for instance. that is. that he is standing upright without knowing that there is an added person at the table or that he makes a difference. Is a subject’s failure to detect a change a failure to see it or just a failure to notice it (i. They count as attention to the individual objects in a multi-element array attentive viewing of the array itself. 11. For example. not (necessarily) a single piece of knowledge expressible as “None of the bricks in the wall are either black or tilted.

One can have these singular pieces of knowledge about individual bricks and because of ignorance or uncertainty about whether one sees all the bricks in the wall (maybe some bricks are concealed) not have knowledge of the general truth that none of the bricks in the wall are black or tilted. ed. and Perner. Fleeting Memories. 95. Philosophical Studies.). References Armstrong.2. Coltheart (ed. D. S. 1999. In V. D. Underwood (ed. I am not claiming that you know that for all x. Preconscious Processing. 1999. 36. D. x is neither black nor tilted. 86. Distinguishing conscious from unconscious perceptual processes. 1969. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 329–59. 1998. 13. pp. ZiF. 216–17. 40. 2001.. M. Dretske. F.. MA: MIT Press (A Bradford Book). MN. Cheesman. P. if not all. Seeing and Knowing. Rosenthal. The Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness. 387–95. Lycan. Consciousness. J. D. University of Chicago Press. MIT press (A Bradford Book). 1996. Priming with and without awareness. Villanueva (ed.3. Implicit knowledge in people and connectionist networks. Perception without awareness. Germany.. A. MA: MIT Press. Cambridge. Dennett. J. Perception and Psychophysics. 94. and Merikle. Consciousness Explained . Phenomenal Consciousness. In V.). Dretske.. 1991. Dixon. 343–67. MA. 115–34. Consciousness. 1999. D. Research Group on Mind and Brain. 1992. Mack. Implicit Cognition. The Mind’s Awareness of Itself. Dienes. 9. Carruthers. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Philosophical Studies. Report No. the bricks in such brief observations. University of Minneosta Press. Coltheart (ed. 1989. ed. 2001. Dehaene. if x is a brick in the wall. pp. N. 1986. Merikle. Brute experience. CA. Savage. In C. In G. and Merikle. Canadian Journal of Psychology. A theory of consciousness. D. . J. D. London. 15. Smilek. pp. MA. 89–113. Inattentional Blindness. P. Toward a cognitive theory of consciousness. ed. Cambridge. In E.). Minneapolis. N. Lycan. F. Journal of Philosophy. Understanding sentences and scenes: the role of conceptual short term memory. W. Inattentional amnesia. 1991. Atascadero. In Dehaene. Z. Cambridge University Press. 227–55. and Eastwood. 1968. Fleeting Memories. 1978. 1990. MA. MIT Press. Oxford University Press. P. pp. MIT Press. & Rock. Wolfe. Carruthers. A Materialist Theory of the Mind . pp. Routledge. Boston. W.. Cambridge. John Wiley and Sons. 1987. M. D. A few seconds is enough time for six or seven saccades (involuntary movements of the eye) so it is likely that one foveates most. P. pp.). 2000. Bielefeld. Ridgeview Publishing Co. Potter. In Dehaene.. J. I. Kanwisher. Chicago. 1986. Neural events and perceptual awareness. J. P. So when I say that you know that none of the bricks in the wall are black or tilted. 2001. The independence of consciousness and sensory quality. if x is a brick in the wall. 2001. Little Brown and Company. University of Bielefeld.230 / Fred Dretske needn’t know this to know. 40. 2001. Dennett. 15–36. that it is neither black nor tilted. Rosenthal. I should be understood as saying that for all x. New York. 258–9. 1981. Rosenthal. Cambridge. C. Two concepts of consciousness. Uncertain materialism and Lockean introspection. 71–94. 1984. 1–22. ed. you know x to be neither black nor tilted. Cambridge. 13– 46. Cheesman. F. of each one of the bricks.