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PSY1207 Cognition, emotion and development > Consciousness > Flashcards

Flashcards in Consciousness Deck (31)
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what is self-consciousness the representation of?

The bodily self

Self as subject of experiences

Self as ‘owner’ of actions and intentions (sense of agency)


what are the correlates of consciousness?

what kinds of process/representation in mind/brain associated with phenomenal awareness?


how do we explain phenomenal awareness?

i.e. subjective experience: ‘Feel’ of private sensory experience (sensory ‘qualia’), inner thoughts and feelings, action intentions: What it is like to be you (/ a bat)


what does a neuropsych disorder of self-consciousness include?

Anasagnosias: Not acknowledging major and frank cog disorders – e.g. Anton’s syndrome

Anarchic hand (loss of awareness of ownership of intentions)

Alien hand (loss of awareness of ownership of body part)

Psychotic auditory hallucinations = loss of awareness of intention/ownership of internal speech? (Frith, 1992)


self-consciousness in animals?

Dubious status of mirror test – does it test bodily self-awareness/just ability to interpret minor images?


which cog functions are associated with awareness?

No conscious access to v. early stages of sensory analysis (e.g. pre-attentional cortical maps of colour, edge orientation movement etc)/ later stages of motor representation (joint angle changes, muscle contraction forces etc)

‘Informationally encapsulated’

Many ‘in-between’ processes/representations just as informationally encapsulated as sensory and motor processes (e.g. syntactic processing, unconscious inference based on heuristics)

Numerous aspects of ‘higher’ cognition that would once have thought as requiring consciousness can happen w/o awareness


how is the semantic processing of subliminal words demonstrated?

by priming of response to visible target

Semantic priming obtained from backward-masked words with prime duration at which presence of word cannot be discriminated (Marcel, 1983)

Similarly: Masked category priming of pictures, words, faces etc
– E.g. if must classify gender of face, diff subliminal prime face of same/opposite gender faces/interferes


activation of meaning by subliminal/unattended objects/events

Possible to find conditions (e.g. brief masked presentation) where enough processing of sensory input to activate meaning, emotional salience etc but no perceptual awareness of stimulus

Unattended words outside focal attention: not noticed or remembered but undergo some (attenuated) semantic processing (e.g. GSR to shock conditioned words in unattended message).


why are claims controversial in activation of meaning by subliminal.unattended objects/events?

methodological difficulties

– Establishing total invisibility of prime
– Ruling out priming due to perceptual overlap
– Ruling out response priming


priming to behaviour

E.g. Bargh et al (1996)
– Ps believing in language exp assembled into sentences
 Words associated with age
 Control words
– Walking speed down corridor slower after priming with age-related words

Numerous reports of kind, esp. in social cognition literature gained public currency

Big problems with replication, publication bias (it’s easy to get sexy effect published, even if relatively small study, if p


can subliminal stimulus initiate voluntary action?

Naïve model of voluntary reaction to a stimulus

Implies you have to consciously see a visual stimulus and intend to act to perform a voluntary action


what is blindsight?

Patients with a hemianopia (or more restricted scotoma) — area of blindness in the visual field due to cortical (V1) damage — have no conscious awareness of stimuli in the blind region

But — if forced to guess — can voluntarily point at a moving object within the blind region, and make some discriminations of them (e.g. form, colour), much better than chance


what voluntary actions are evoked by stimuli of which normal Ps are unaware?

Stimulus which subject doesn’t see (because of ‘metacontrast’ masking by flanking stimuli)

Can initiate an intended action with reaction time unaffected (relative to unmasked condition, where the subject sees the stimulus)


when does awareness of intention happen relative to initiation of action?

Libet’s (1983) ERP paradigm:
– P raises finger when feel like it
– Judges (by noting position of rotating clock hand) moment W at which consciously initiated action

‘Readiness-potential’ onset substantially precedes judged moment of intention to act

Same true for (briefer) ‘lateralised readiness potential’ (LRP) associated with selection of L v R response
– Awareness follows (therefore caused by) response selection


what are the implications?

None of causal chain seems to require awareness – consciously seeing stimulus not essential to semantic and emotional activation and initiation of action

If there is awareness, it ‘comments’ on intentional establishment of task-set, detection of the stimulus, and initiation/selection of the action, after they happen, awareness doesn’t cause them.


decision-making and problem-solving

Perceptuo-motor reactions and semantic activation only contingently associated with awareness

Choice – choosing courses of action, making decisions, solving problems – invariably associated with awareness?

Imp of Nisbett and Wilson’s (1977) classic studies: make choice, immediate debrief of why made choice: P does not appear to know what does and does not influence their decision


choice blindness exps

E shows P photos of 2 faces

E asks P to choose face preferred, appears to pass it face down to P (But sleight of hand on some trials E substitutes the other photo).

E asks P to explain why they preferred the face they now hold and look at

80% didn’t notice manip

Happily gave reasons for ‘choice’ didn’t make

Reason given for faces did and dint choose cannot be differentiated on numerous measures

Ps do not appear to have access to the process or determinants of their choice (or they would notice the discrepancy)

They are providing a post-hoc rationale for the choice


what are the 2 routes that decision-making and problem-solving may be done by?

Step-by-step (serial) logical reasoning (conscious) [System 2]

Intuition (automatic memory-based – unconscious) [System 1]


what is system 1 characterised as?

fast/quick-and-dirty/automatic heuristics – and hence inferior.


intuitive (unconscious) v conscious thinking

– Sudden-insight unconscious problem-solving can be slow, and both effective and creative
– Dijksterhuis et al (2006) have claimed that unconscious decision-making can be superior to conscious reasoning because unconscious thought can slowly, and in parallel, integrate many features, whereas conscious thought has limited capacity for representing multiple features, and tends to overweigh just a few


what is the unconscious thought advantage?

P chose among 4 cars on the basis of a description of 4 or 12 attributes per car (e.g. good mileage, poor handling, large boot, etc.). One car had 75% +ve attributes, two 50%, one 25%

Conscious thought condition (3 mins deliberation),

Unconscious thought condition (same amount of time)
(e.g. word-search, anagram solving requiring concentration on that task)

For 12 attributes (but not 4) better choices after unconscious condition


what replication issues are there?

Numerous studies similar to Dijksterhuis et al (2006) have now been published: some find an UTA, some not.

Nieuwenstein et al (2015): do UTA findings reflect “spurious effects obtained with unreliable paradigm” or “real effect that occurs only when certain conditions are met” (e.g. timing, mindset, goal, problem size, distractor task) ?

– Large scale replication (N=399) of original study meeting “certain conditions” proposed by Strick, Dijsterhuis et al (2012): no sig UTA found
– Meta-analysis of available studies: UTA restricted to studies with small sample size – prevalence of positive findings in the literature attributed to publication bias?


summary: correlates of conscious awareness

Much happens in heads to which have no access

Many kinds of mental process/representation which, though often assumed to require awareness, turn out to not need awareness (hence awareness, per se, not causal, inc:
– Activation of meanings and emotion
– Stimulus-triggered/spontaneous action
– Some kinds of choice and decision-making

Is any process/representation always associated with awareness? Perhaps:
– The ‘mental/situ model’ (integrated current representation of meaningful state of affairs?)
– Serial logical (‘system 2’) thinking?


what philosophical options are there?







C immaterial, not dependent on physical substrate (and hence inaccessible to science)

Question: if C immaterial, how does it interface causally with the material brain?



C is dependent on the physical substrate



C requires certain properties and/ types and/ activities of neurons

Question: what properties/types of activities



C requires certain types, organisation and/ degree of complexity of computation

Question: what computational functions?


what examples are there of physicalist theories?

Sensory awareness associated with:
– 40 Hz oscillatory synchro of neuronal activity, in striate cortex and later cortical areas, that ‘binds’ visual properties of an object such as shape and colour (Crick and Koch)
- Recurrent activation of primary sensory areas (Lamme)

Consciousness (esp. creativity) associated with randomness – comes from quantum interactions in micro-tubules in neurons (Penrose)

First 2 apply only to sensory awareness

Third explains one mystery with another mystery

And hypotheses only about neural correlates of C: they don’t answer the ‘hard Q’ -why does the alleged special kind of neural processing generate the property of subjective experience?


examples of functionalist theories

Awareness has been held to be associated with:
– Activities of general-purpose ‘central processor’ (Broadbent, Posner)
 But evidence on dual task interference doesn’t seem to support the existence of such a processor
– Executive monitoring and control (Mackay, Mandler)
 But there is increasing evidence for fractionation of executive functions
– Representation and sharing via ‘global workspace’ of activity originating in (non-conscious) specialist processors (Baars, Dehaene)
 Global workspace = ‘WM++’ (though WM seems to be composed of multiple specialised components, inc. phonological buffer, VSS, active component of mental model)