The Folk Psychology of Consciousness


  • All authors made roughly equal contributions to the paper; the order of authors is alphabetical. We would like to thank the audiences at the Center for Consciousness Studies, Toward a Science of Consciousness 2008 Conference, Arizona's Experimental Philosophy Lab, the Experimental Philosophy Workshop at the 2008 meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and the Integrating Science and the Humanities conference at the University of British Columbia for their comments. We are also grateful to Mike Bruno, Peter Carruthers, Yali Corea-Levy, Jane Erickson, Ian Evans, Jen Giesselmann, Josh Greene, Terry Horgan, Bryce Huebner, Tony Jack, Chris Kahn, Benji Kozuch, Uriah Kriegel, Trevor Kvaran, Theresa Lopez, John Pollock, Jesse Prinz, Philip Robbins, Deena Skolnik-Weisberg, Justin Sytsma, and especially Josh Knobe and Edouard Machery for suggestions.

Adam Arico, 1145 E. South Campus Dr., Rm 213, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


This paper proposes the ‘AGENCY model’ of conscious state attribution, according to which an entity's displaying certain relatively simple features (e.g. eyes, distinctive motions, interactive behavior) automatically triggers a disposition to attribute conscious states to that entity. To test the model's predictions, participants completed a speeded object/attribution task, in which they responded positively or negatively to attributions of mental properties (including conscious and non-conscious states) to different sorts of entities (insects, plants, artifacts, etc.). As predicted, participants responded positively to conscious state attributions only for those entities that typically display the simple features identified in the AGENCY model (eyes, distinctive motion, interaction) and took longer to deny conscious states to those entities.