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WN@TL: Seeing and not seeing: Investigating visual awareness
June 12 @ 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm
Speaker: Emily Ward, Psychology
Speaker Bio: Emily J. Ward is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at UW–Madison, where she directs the Visual Cognition Laboratory. She is broadly interested in understanding the scope and limits of visual perception, with an emphasis on how we can better understand the nature of our consciousness experience by understanding what we see and fail to see. Before coming to UW-Madison, she received her Ph.D. from the Department of Psychology at Yale and then spent a year as a Visiting Researcher at the Donders Institute in the Netherlands. Before Yale, she studied spatial cognition as a research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania and received her B.A. in Neuroscience from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Description: Becoming aware of the world seems simple and straightforward — indeed, there may be no aspect of the mind that is more taken for granted, by both laypeople and scientists. But in fact, the gulf between our visual awareness and the world itself is wide and counterintuitive. Understanding the nature of visual awareness is further complicated by what seems like its inextricable tie to attention and our ability to report what we see. So not only do many fundamental questions about the nature of visual awareness remain, but there are difficult experimental challenges in answering them. I will introduce several of these outstanding questions, including whether failures of awareness reflect genuine deficits in moment-by-moment conscious perception and whether we see more than we can report, and describe how my lab uses new techniques to get around the challenges. Collectively, this work reveals some of the causes and consequences of the dissociation between visual awareness and the world.