The close relationship between attention and consciousness has led many scholars to conflate these processes. Researchers have found that that top-down attention and consciousness are distinct phenomena that need not occur together and that can be manipulated using distinct paradigms.
In other words, individuals can become conscious of an isolated object or the gist of a scene despite the near absence of top-down attention. Conversely, the same individuals can attend to perceptually invisible objects.
Furthermore, top-down attention and consciousness can have opposing effects. Such dissociations are easier to understand when the different functions of these two processes are considered.