In 2011 I published a screed against the reification of attention in psychology. Basically, the argument was that attention is not a “thing”, and by treating it as such we trick ourselves into thinking we have an explanation when we don’t, and we miss out on the opportunity to pursue the real causal mechanisms.

Recently Wayne Wu (who has a great book on Attention) coordinated a collection of perspectives on “What is Attention?” for Wiley’s Wires Cognitive Science series, and I had a chance to revisit my ideas on this topic. Basically, I feel my original arguments stand, and I didn’t feel like repeating the same ideas. Rather, I took psychology’s failure to use a word like attention in a productive way as a particular example of a general phenomenon: conceptual fragmentation, and to suggest that this justified eliminativism. I also shared an idea (which others have as well) that psychology’s susceptibility to this kind of problem lies in psychology not being theory based. Lastly, I put in a plug for category theory as a language that might help us exit the confusing conceptual soup in which we all work.

Let me know what you think of these ideas.

these ideas