After being sorely neglected for some time, consciousness is well and truly back on the philosophical and scientific agenda. This entry provides a whistle-stop tour of some recent debates surrounding consciousness, with a particular focus on issues relevant to the scientific study of consciousness. The first half of this entry (the first to fourth sections) focuses on clarifying the explanandum of a science of consciousness and identifying constraints on an adequate account of consciousness; the second half of this entry (the (...) fifth to seventh sections) examines a number of the methodological challenges facing the science of consciousness. (shrink)
Explanation does not exist in a metaphysical vacuum. Conceptions of the structure of a phenomenon play an important role in guiding attempts to explain it, and erroneous conceptions of a phenomenon may direct investigation in misleading directions. I believe that there is a case to be made for thinking that much work on the neural underpinnings of consciousness—what is often called the neural correlates of consciousness—is driven by an erroneous conception of the structure of consciousness. The aim of this paper (...) is lay bare some connections between the explanation of consciousness and the structure of consciousness, and to argue for a conception of the structure of consciousness that is more adequate than that which currently drives much research into the neural correlates of consciousness. (shrink)
Most animals have mental states of one sort or another, but few species share our capacity for self-awareness. We are aware of our own mental states via introspection, and we are aware of the mental states of our fellow human beings on the basis of what they do and say. This chapter is not concerned with these traditional forms of mind-reading—forms whose origins predate the beginnings of recorded history—but with the prospects of a rather different and significantly more recent form (...) of ‘mind-reading’: the capacity to ascribe mental states to a creature on the basis of information derived from neuroimaging. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to enquire into neuroscientific research on memory and relate it to topics of skill, knowledge and consciousness. The article outlines some contemporary theories on procedural and working memory, and discusses what contributions they give to sport science and philosophy of sport. It is argued that memory research gives important insights to the neuronal structures and events involved in knowledge and consciousness contributing to sport skills, but that these explanations are not exhaustive. The article argues (...) that phenomenal consciousness in skills is not explained by the neuroscience of memory, and hence neither are skills. (shrink)
Clinical delusions are difficult to investigate in the laboratory because they co-occur with other symptoms and with intellectual impairment. Partly for these reasons, researchers have recently begun to use hypnosis with neurologically intact people in order to model clinical delusions. In this paper we describe striking analogies between the behavior of patients with a clinical delusion of mirrored self misidentification, and the behavior of highly hypnotizable subjects who receive a hypnotic suggestion to see a stranger when they look in the (...) mirror. Based on these analogies, we argue that the use of hypnosis is a reliable method to investigate the surface features of clinical delusions. But to what extent can hypnosis successfully recreate delusions? Can it also contribute to a better understanding of delusion formation? Although clinical delusions and hypnotically induced beliefs are different in etiology, some analogies can be identified in the underlying processes that characterise them, based on the two-factor theory of delusion formation. (shrink)
Sensorimotor representations are essential for building up and maintaining corporeal awareness, i.e. the ability to perceive, know and evaluate one's own body as well as the bodies of others. The notion of embodied cognition implies that abstract forms of conceptual knowledge may be ultimately instantiated in such sensorimotor representations. In this sense, conceptual thinking should evoke, via mental simulation, some underlying sensorimotor events. In this review we discuss studies on the relation between embodiment and corporeal awareness. We approach the question (...) by issuing challenges from both ends. First, we ask whether bodily representations themselves can be disembodied or disconnected from underlying sensorimotor events. Second, we ask whether any concept, no matter how abstract, can actually be embodied in this way. The strong view of embodied cognition requires a negative answer to the first question, and an affirmative answer to the second. We also focus on the surprising range of cognitive processes that can be explained by linking them to corporeal awareness, such as aesthetic appreciation, and object constancy following brain damage. We conclude that (a) somatomotor simulation may help to understand the external world and the society of other individuals, but (b) some non-somatic forms of simulation may be required to explain how abstract knowledge contributes to understanding others' states. In this sense, the classic divide between sensorimotor and conceptual domains must remain in some form. (shrink)
This article combines the disciplines of textual/linguistic analysis, anthropology, and perceptual psychology to examine selected ancient Jewish mystical texts that claim to describe the praxis for ascents into heaven and encounters with angelic spirits in order to reconstruct the psychosocial context of these literary works. Specifically, the article examines Hekhalot or "Divine Palaces" texts that deal with hydromancy, giving attention to their mythic–symbolic assumptions, their described preparatory and triggering rituals, and their accounts of the ASC (altered states of consciousness) visions (...) resulting from these rituals that are experienced by the practitioners. The article suggests that these accounts correlate with ASC practices identified in the literature and additionally suggests that although the mystical texts are written to resemble biblical accounts of revelatory experiences, the texts under consideration are more than works of fabulous imagination; they are literary artifacts of an actual ecstatic ASC praxis among the Jews of Late Antiquity. (shrink)
Botanical preparations used by shamans in rituals for divination, prophecy, and ecstasy contain widely different psychoactive compounds, which are incorrectly classified under a single denomination such as “hallucinogens,” “psychedelics,” or “entheogens.” Based on extensive ethnopharmacological search, I proposed a psychopharmacological classification of magic plants in 1979. This paper re-evaluates this taxonomy in the context of consciousness research. Several groups of psychodysleptic magic plants are proposed: (1) hallucinogens—psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline cacti, dimethyltryptamine snuffs, and the synthetic ergoline lysergic acid diethylamide induce strong (...) perceptual changes, affective intensification, and cognitive enhancement. Their ethnobotanical uses include long lasting divination rituals, prophecy, and sacramental practice. (2) Trance-inducers—ergoline Convolvulaceae and South American Banisteriopsis produce quietness, abstraction, lethargy, mild sensorial and cognitive changes, and salient visual imagery changes used in trance rituals and specific divination practices. (3) Cognodysleptics—marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other terpene-containing plants induce changes in thought, imagination, and affective functions and are used in short-term divination or oneiromancy. (4) Deliriants—tropane-containing Solanaceae, wild tobacco, and Amanita muscaria (muscimol) induce a delirium characterized by dim and clouded consciousness, stupor, confusion, disorientation, perception distortion, difficulties in recollection, anxiety, irritability, excitation, and behavioral disorganization employed in sorcery, purification, or exorcism rituals. The core mental effects required for a drug to be used in shamanistic rituals include light-headedness, enhanced imagery, and experience intensification. This constellation was the reason why, in his classification of psychoactive compounds, the pioneer German psychopharmacologist Louis Lewin established in 1924 a group of drugs under the appropriate name of Phantastica. (shrink)
Virtually all experimental psychologists now accept that our behaviour can be affected by stimuli of which we have no conscious awareness. Such effects are typically not very dramatic even though they are reasonably reliable. However, such results do not on the surface appear to offer much support to claims of profound and lasting behavioural changes brought about by subliminal advertising or subliminal self-help tapes.
Research into the so-called “philosophical” Hermetica has long been dominated by the foundational scholarship of André-Jean Festugière, who strongly emphasized their Greek and philosophical elements. Since the late 1970s, this perspective has given way to a new and more complex one, due to the work of another French scholar, Jean-Pierre Mahé, who could profit from the discovery of new textual sources, and called much more attention to the Egyptian and religious dimensions of the hermetic writings. This article addresses the question (...) of how, on these foundations, we should evaluate and understand the frequent hermetic references to profound but wholly ineffable revelatory and salvational insights received during “ecstatic” states. Festugière dismissed them as “literary fictions”, whereas Mahé took them much more seriously as possibly reflecting ritual practices that took place in hermetic communities. Based upon close reading of three central texts (CH I, CH XIII, NH VI6), and challenging existing translations and interpretations, this article argues that the authors of the hermetic corpus assumed a sequential hierarchy of “levels of knowledge”, in which the highest and most profound knowledge (gnōsis) is attained only during ecstatic or “altered” states of consciousness that transcend rationality. While the hermetic teachings have often been described as unsystematic, inconsistent, incoherent or confused, in fact they are grounded in a precise and carefully formulated doctrine of how the hermetic initiate may move from the domain of mere rational discourse to the attainment of several “trans-rational” stages of direct experiential knowledge, and thereby from the limited and temporal domain of material reality to the unlimited and eternal one of Mind. (shrink)
The processing, representation, and perception of bodily signals (interoception) plays an important role for human behavior. Theories of embodied cognition hold that higher cognitive processes operate on perceptual symbols and that concept use involves reactivations of the sensory-motor states that occur during experience with the world. Similarly, activation of interoceptive representations and meta-representations of bodily signals supporting interoceptive awareness are profoundly associated with emotional experience and cognitive functions. This article gives an overview over present findings and models on interoception and (...) mechanisms of embodiment and highlights its relevance for disorders that are suggested to represent a translation deficit of bodily states into subjective feelings and self-awareness. (shrink)
It appears that consciousness science is progressing soundly, in particular in its search for the neural correlates of consciousness. There are two main approaches to this search, one is content-based (focusing on the contrast between conscious perception of, e.g., faces vs. houses), the other is state-based (focusing on overall conscious states, e.g., the contrast between dreamless sleep vs. the awake state). Methodological and conceptual considerations of a number of concrete studies show that both approaches are problematic: the content-based approach seems (...) to set aside crucial aspects of consciousness; and the state-based approach seems over-inclusive in a way that is hard to rectify without losing sight of the crucial conscious-unconscious contrast. Consequently, the search for the neural correlates of consciousness is in need of new experimental paradigms. (shrink)
In the formation of epistemically justified beliefs, what is the role of attention, and what is the role (if any) of non-attentional aspects of cognition? We will here argue that there is an essential role for certain nonattentional aspects. These involve epistemically relevant background information that is implicit in the standing structure of an epistemic agent’s cognitive architecture and that does not get explicitly represented during belief-forming cognitive processing. Since such “morphological content” (as we call it) does not become explicit (...) during belief formation, it cannot be information that is within the scope of attention. Nevertheless,it does exert a subtle influence on the character of conscious experience, rather than operating in a purely unconscious way. (shrink)
Not at all self-evident, the so-called isomorphisms between the phenomenology and physiology of dreams have been interpreted by Hobson et al. in an arbitrary manner to state that dreams are stimulated by chaotic brainstem stimulation (an assumption also adopted by Vertes & Eastman). I argue that this stimulation is not chaotic at all; nor does it occur in the absence of control from the cerebral cortex, which contributes complexity to brainstem activity as well as meaningful information worth consolidating in the (...) brain during sleep. [Hobson et al.; Vertes & Eastman]. (shrink)
Reinterpretation of our data concerning sleep onset, motivated by the desire to pay close attention to “intra-individual regularities,” suggests that the experience of control might be a key factor in determining the subjective sense that sleep has begun. This loss of control seems akin to what Frith and others have described as “passivity experiences,” which also occur in schizophrenia. Although clearly sleep onset is not a schizophrenic episode, this similarity might help to explain other features of sleep onset. We further (...) speculate that we could build upon the discovery of various “intra-individual regularities” to construct a model of sleep onset and other forms of sleep mentation. (shrink)
We review recent anticipatory looking and violation-of-expectancy studies suggesting that infants and young preschoolers have spontaneous (implicit) understanding of mind despite their known problems until later in life on elicited (explicit) tests of false-belief reasoning. Straightforwardly differentiating spontaneous and elicited expressions of complex mental state understanding in relation to an implicit-explicit knowledge framework may be challenging; early action predictions may be based on behavior rules that are complementary to the mentalistic attributions under consideration. We discuss that the way forward for (...) diagnosing early mentalism is to analyze whether young candidate mind-readers’ visual orienting cohere across different belief-formation by belief-use combinations. Adopting this formal cognitive analysis, we conclude that whilst some studies come tantalizingly close to sign-posting mentalism in infants and young children’s spontaneous responses, the bulk of evidence for early mentalism grades into behaviorism. (shrink)
A new working hypothesis of sleep-wake cycle mechanisms is proposed, based on ontogeny and functional/anatomic compression of two stochastic neuronal models of information coding that complement each other in a key/lock fashion: the axonal arbor patterns (AAP – “hardware”) and the neuronal spike interval inequality patterns (SIIP – “software”). [Hobson et al.; Nielsen; Revonsuo; Solms; Vertes & Eastman].
In recent years, a number of approaches to social cognition research have emerged that highlight the importance of embodied interaction for social cognition (Reddy, How infants know minds, 2008; Gallagher, J Conscious Stud 8:83–108, 2001; Fuchs and Jaegher, Phenom Cogn Sci 8:465–486, 2009; Hutto, in Seemans (ed.) Joint attention: new developments in psychology, philosophy of mind and social neuroscience, 2012). Proponents of such ‘interactionist’ approaches emphasize the importance of embodied responses that are engaged in online social interaction, and which, according (...) to interactionists, present an alternative to mindreading as a source of social understanding. We agree that it is important to take embodied interaction seriously, but do not agree that this presents a fundamental challenge to mainstream mindreading approaches. Drawing upon an analogy between embodied interaction and the exercise of expert skills, we advocate a hierarchical view which claims that embodied social responses generally operate in close conjunction with higher-level cognitive processes that play a coordinative role, and which are often sensitive to mental states. Thus, investigation of embodied responses should inform rather than conflict with research on mindreading. (shrink)
Haluk Ogmen and Bruno G. Breitmeyer (eds.): The First Half Second: The Microgenesis and Temporal Dynamics of Unconscious and Conscious Visual Processes Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 61-65 DOI 10.1007/s11023-011-9266-7 Authors Ramesh Kumar Mishra, Centre of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, Allahabad University, Allahabad, India Journal Minds and Machines Online ISSN 1572-8641 Print ISSN 0924-6495 Journal Volume Volume 22 Journal Issue Volume 22, Number 1.
Symbolic healing, that is, responding to meaningful experiences in positive ways, can facilitate human healing. This process partly engages consciousness and partly evades consciousness completely (sometimes it partakes of both simultaneously). This paper, presented as the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness Distinguished Lecture at the 2011 AAA meeting in Montreal, reviews recent research on what is ordinarily (and unfortunately) called the “placebo effect.” The author makes the argument that language use should change, and the relevant portions of what is (...) often called the placebo effect should be referred to as the “meaning response.”. (shrink)
The present review of literature surveys two main issues related to self-referential processes: (1) Where in the brain are these processes located, and do they correlate with brain areas uniquely specialized in self-processing? (2) What are the empirical and theoretical links between inner speech and self-awareness? Although initial neuroimaging attempts tended to favor a right hemispheric view of selfawareness, more recent work shows that the brain areas which support self-related processes are located in both hemispheres and are not uniquely activated (...) during self-reflective tasks. Furthermore, self-awareness at least partially relies on internal speech. An activation of Broca's area (which is known to sustain inner speech) is observed in a significant number of brain-imaging studies of self-reflection. Loss of inner speech following brain damage produces self-awareness deficits. Inner speech most likely can internally reproduce social mechanisms leading to self-awareness. Also, the process of self-reflection can be seen as being a problem-solving task, and self-talk as being a cognitive tool the individual uses to effectively work on the task. It is noted that although a large body of knowledge already exists on self-awareness, little is known about individual differences in dispositional self-focus and types of self-attention (e.g., rumination vs. self-reflection). (shrink)
Altered states of consciousness (ASC), especially hallucinatory ones, are philosophically and scientifically interesting modes of operation of the mind–brain complex. However, classical definitions of ASC seem to capture only a few common characteristics of traditionally regarded phenomena, thus lacking exact classification criteria for assessing altered and baseline states. The current situation leads to a priority problem between phenomena-based definitions and definition-based phenomena selection. In order to solve the problem, this paper introduces a self-mapping procedure that is based on a three-part (...) analysis on certain aspects of hallucinatory altered consciousness. Starting with commonalities found in current definitions of ASC, issues with self-evaluation, sources of data, and baseline comparison are analyzed first. Next, the concept of alterations is examined with respect to temporal dynamics, change mechanisms, and mental subsystems. Finally, hallucinatory phenomena are discussed regarding various definitions, the relationship between “external” and “internal,” and the “trueness” issue of hallucinations. Conclusive to the analysis above, a technically based working definition of ASC and a stepwise operationalization procedure are also proposed. (shrink)
In the article, I propose that the body phantom is a phenomenal and functional model of one’s own body. This model has two aspects. On the one hand, it functions as a tacit sensory representation of the body that is at the same time related to the motor aspects of body functioning. On the other hand, it also has a phenomenal aspect as it constitutes the content of conscious bodily experience. This sort of tacit, functional and sensory model is related (...) to the spatial parameters of the physical body. In the article, I postulate that this functional model or map is of crucial importance to the felt ownership parameters of the body (de Vignemont 2007), which are themselves considered as constituting the phenomenal aspect of the aforementioned model. (shrink)
Pseudoscience is not an appropriate label for parapsychology. Although the noise reduction model of extrasensory perception (ESP) is explanatory only in a limited sense, research does exist addressing the correlation between ESP and altered states of consciousness (ASCs). The term anomaly is not appropriately applied to experiences such as out of body experiences (OBEs) per se, but only to the question of their source. Research on both topics should be encouraged.