A constructivist and connectionist view on conscious and nonconscious processes

Philosophical Psychology 10 (3):287-307 (1997)
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Recent experimental findings reveal dissociations of conscious and nonconscious performance in many fields of psychological research, suggesting that conscious and nonconscious effects result from qualitatively different processes. A connectionist view of these processes is put forward in which consciousness is the consequence of construction processes taking place in three types of working memory in a specific type of recurrent neural network. The recurrences arise by feeding back output to the input of a central (representational) network. They are assumed to be intemalizations of motor-sensory feedback through the environment. In this manner, a subvocal-phonological, a visuo-spatial, and a somatosensory working memory may have developed. Representations in the central network, which constitutes long-term memory, can be kept active by rehearsal in the feedback loops. The sequentially recurrent architecture allows for recursive symbolic operations and the formation of (auditory, visual, or somatic) models of the external world which can be maintained, transformed and temporarily combined with other information in working memory. Moreover, the quasi-input from the loop directs subsequent attentional processing. The view may contribute to a formal framework to accommodate findings from disparate fields such as working memory, sequential reasoning, and conscious and nonconscious processes in memory and emotion. In theory, but probably not very soon in practice, such connectionist models might simulate aspects of consciousness



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