Research

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Two Research Strands

We will investigate attention norms in two research strands. The Descriptive Strand studies the biological function of attention and whether natural norms for attention can be derived from it (Sub-project 1), as well as how social norms of attention may arise in groups of individuals that need to coordinate their actions (Sub-project 2). The Descriptive Strand, thus, takes a bottom-up approach to attention norms: from two different directions it investigates how attention norms might emerge.

The Evaluative Strand, on the other hand, takes a top-down approach. It starts from three fields of philosophy that are centrally concerned with normative evaluations: the theory of practical rationality (Sub-project 3), epistemology (Sub-project 4), and ethics and political philosophy (Sub-project 5), and uses novel conceptual and analytic tools in these fields to investigate whether attention norms play a serious role in these respective areas.

The Descriptive Strand

Sub-project 1: Natural Attention Norms

This sub-project studies the function of attention in our cognitive architecture, and what natural norms of attention, if any, may be derived from it. It investigates the biological function of attention, both from an etiological and a systemic perspective. It considers the hypothesis that the biological function of attention is to organize the input to cognitive systems by prioritizing states with the highest relevance to the individual.

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Collage by Sebastian Watzl, based on images by Amy Van Den Berg, Oleg Gamulinskiy and Harry Strauss on Pixabay and a cleanpng image.

Sub-project 2: Social Attention Norms

This sub-project looks at the social dimension of attention, and the social norms that may govern it. It studies the function of attention sharing and coordination in social interaction and the emergence of social norms. It investigates the emergence of social norms of attention, if any, that guide social interactions. It considers the hypothesis that the significance of social attention norms is for negotiating relevance, and to settle common standards for relevance in a particular social setting.

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Photo by Emma Dau on Unsplash.

The Evaluative Strand

Sub-project 3: Integrating Attention into Decision Theory

This sub-project investigates formal models of rational decision making that incorporate attention as an independent factor. It studies how to integrate such decision theoretic models with research on the role of attention in action. It connects with philosophical work on frame-dependent, context-dependent, and situational reasoning.

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Photo: Lysa

Sub-project 4: Attention Norms and Epistemic Norms

This sub-project investigate the role of attention in epistemology and the rational status of the role of attention in the acquisition and exchange of knowledge and in inquiry. It studies the interaction between attention and epistemic norms with a special focus on a social and inquiry-centered approach to epistemic norms. It looks specifically at how epistemic notions of relevance might emerge at the interplay between, on the one hand, natural and social attention norms, and, on the other hand, the social context that make the evaluation of information exchange prominent.

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Photo by KMA on Unsplash.

Sub-project 5: Ethics: Rights and Duties for Attention

This sub-project examines moral duties of attention and political attention rights by drawing on the social role of attention norms for social coordination and joint action. Directions of research include the study of procedural duties of non-negligence as well as substantial moral duties to pay enough attention to morally relevant facts; whether there should be restrictions on the commodification of attention; and whether the normative demands of democracy put restrictions on how much of our attention an individual or group can legitimately demand.

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Photo by Amanda Lins on Unsplash

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GOODATTENTION: Attention norms and their role in practical reason, epistemology, and ethics - is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 101003208 (ERC Consolidator Grant 2020).

Published July 13, 2021 12:14 PM - Last modified Sep. 8, 2021 3:26 PM