Date of Award

Summer 7-10-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Andrea Scarantino

Second Advisor

Dr. Eddy Nahmias

Third Advisor

Dr. Gwen Frishkoff

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Michael Owren


Jesse Prinz proposes that attended intermediate-level representations (AIRs) are sufficient for conscious awareness. He extends this claim to emotion, arguing that attention is the mechanism that separates conscious from unconscious emotions. Prior studies call this entailment into question. However, they do not directly address the intermediate-level requirement, and thus cannot decisively refute the AIR theory of consciousness. This thesis tests that theory by manipulating participants’ attention to different features of subliminally processed words while recording both behavioral and electroencephalogram (EEG) data. Both measures suggest that subliminally processed stimuli are attended according to participants’ conscious intention to complete a task. In addition, the EEG data demonstrate that intermediate-level neural activity was modulated by the subliminal stimuli. Thus, these results suggest that AIRs are not sufficient for conscious emotion. This finding undermines Prinz’s AIR theory, and its account of the distinction between conscious and unconscious emotion.