Most ?theories of consciousness? are based on vague speculations about the properties of conscious experience. We aim to provide a more solid basis for a science of consciousness. We argue that a theory of consciousness should provide an account of the very processes that allow us to acquire and use information about our own mental states ? the processes underlying introspection. This can be achieved through the construction of information processing models that can account for ?Type-C? processes. Type-C processes can (...) be specified experimentally by identifying paradigms in which awareness of the stimulus is necessary for an intentional action. The Shallice (1988b) framework is put forward as providing an initial account of Type-C processes, which can relate perceptual consciousness to consciously performed actions. Further, we suggest that this framework may be refined through the investigation of the functions of prefrontal cortex. The formulation of our approach requires us to consider fundamental conceptual and methodological issues associated with consciousness. The most significant of these issues concerns the scientific use of introspective evidence. We outline and justify a conservative methodological approach to the use of introspective evidence, with attention to the difficulties historically associated with its use in psychology. (shrink)
Cognitive science is shamelessly materialistic. It maintains that human beings are nothing more than complex physical systems, ultimately and completely explicable in mechanistic terms. But this conception of humanity does not ?t well with common sense. To think of the creatures we spend much of our day loving, hating, admiring, resenting, comparing ourselves to, trying to understand, blaming, and thanking -- to think of them as mere mechanisms seems at best counterintuitive and unhelpful. More often it may strike us as (...) ludicrous, or even abhorrent. We are. (shrink)
Cognitive science has wholeheartedly embraced functional brain imaging, but introspective data are still eschewed to the extent that it runs against standard practice to engage in the systematic collection of introspective reports. However, in the case of executive processes associated with prefrontal cortex, imaging has made limited progress, whereas introspective methods have considerable unfulfilled potential. We argue for a re-evaluation of the standard ‘cognitive mapping’ paradigm, emphasizing the use of retrospective reports alongside behavioural and brain imaging techniques. Using all three (...) sources of evidence can compensate for their individual limitations, and so triangulate on higher cognitive processes. (shrink)
Two lines of evidence indicate that there exists a reciprocal inhibitory relationship between opposed brain networks. First, most attention-demanding cognitive tasks activate a stereotypical set of brain areas, known as the task-positive network and simultaneously deactivate a different set of brain regions, commonly referred to as the task negative or defaultmode network. Second, functional connectivity analyses show that these same opposed networks are anti-correlated in the resting state. Wehypothesize that these reciprocally inhibitory effects reflect two incompatible cognitive modes, each of (...) which may be directed towards understanding the external world. Thus, engaging onemode activates one set of regions and suppresses activity in the other.Wetest this hypothesis by identifying two types of problem-solving task which, on the basis of prior work, have been consistently associated with the task positive and task negative regions: tasks requiring social cognition, i.e., reasoning about the mental states of other persons, and tasks requiring physical cognition, i.e., reasoning about the causal/mechanical properties of inanimate objects. Social and mechanical reasoning tasks were presented to neurologically normal participants during fMRI. Each task type was presented using both text and video clips. Regardless of presentation modality, we observed clear evidence of reciprocal suppression: social tasks deactivated regions associated with mechanical reasoning and mechanical tasks deactivated regions associated with social reasoning. These findings are not explained by self-referential processes, task engagement, mental simulation,mental time travel or external vs. internal attention, all factors previously hypothesized to explain default mode network activity. Analyses of resting state data revealed a close match between the regions our tasks identified as reciprocally inhibitory and regions of maximal anti-correlation in the resting state. These results indicate the reciprocal inhibition is not attributable to constraints inherent in the tasks, but is neural in origin. Hence, there is a physiological constraint on our ability to simultaneously engage two distinct cognitive modes. Furtherwork is needed tomore precisely characterize these opposing cognitive domains. (shrink)
In this article, we present evidence of a bidirectional coupling between moral concern and the attribution of properties and states that are associated with experience (e.g., conscious awareness, feelings). This coupling is also shown to be stronger with experience than for the attribution of properties and states more closely associated with agency (e.g., free will, thoughts). We report the results of four studies. In the first two studies, we vary the description of the mental capacities of a creature, and assess (...) the effects of these manipulations on moral concern. The third and fourth studies examine the effects of variations in moral concern on attributions of mindedness. Results from the first two studies indicate that moral concern depends primarily on the attribution of experience, rather than the attribution of agency. The results of the latter two studies demonstrate that moral concern increases attributions of mindedness, and that this effect is stronger for attributions of experience than for attributions of agency. (shrink)
Seminal work in moral neuroscience by Joshua Greene and colleagues employed variants of the well-known trolley problems to identify two brain networks which compete with each other to determine moral judgments. Greene interprets the tension between these brain networks using a dual process account which pits deliberative reason against automatic emotion-driven intuitions: reason versus passion. Recent neuroscientific evidence suggests, however, that the critical tension that Greene identifies as playing a role in moral judgment is not so much a tension between (...) reason and passion, but a tension between distinct forms of deliberative reasoning: analytic versus empathetic. In this paper we present results from several new studies supporting this alternative hypothesis. (shrink)
The process of dehumanization, or thinking of others as less than human, is a phenomenon with significant societal implications. According to Haslam's model, two concepts of humanness derive from comparing humans with either animals or machines: individuals may be dehumanized by likening them to either animals or machines, or humanized by emphasizing differences from animals or machines. Recent work in cognitive neuroscience emphasizes understanding cognitive processes in terms of interactions between distributed cortical networks. It has been found that reasoning about (...) internal mental states is associated with activation of the default mode network and deactivation of the task positive network ; whereas reasoning about mechanical processes produces the opposite pattern. We conducted two neuroimaging studies. The first examined the neural bases of dehumanization and its relation to these two brain networks, using images and voice-over social narratives which either implicitly contrasted or implicitly likened humans to either animals or machines. The second study addressed a discrepancy between findings from the first study and prior work on the neural correlates of dehumanization: using a design similar to prior work we examined neural responses to pictures of humans, animals and machines, presented without any social context. In both studies, human and humanizing conditions were associated with relatively high activity in the DMN and relatively low activity in the TPN. However, the non-human and dehumanizing conditions deviated in different ways: they demonstrated more marked changes either in the DMN or in the TPN. Notably, differences between the animal dehumanizing and humanizing conditions were most evident in regions associated with mechanistic reasoning, not in the mentalizing network. Conjunction analysis of contrasts from both paradigms revealed that only one region was consistently more active when participants saw human, a medial parietal region regarded as the central hub of the DMN. These findings provide a neural basis for Haslam's distinction between two types of dehumanization, and suggest that the DMN and TPN play opposing roles in creating a sense of moral concern. (shrink)
The right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ) has been associated with two apparently disparate functional roles: in attention and in social cognition. According to one account, the rTPJ initiates a “circuit-breaking” signal that interrupts ongoing attentional processes, effectively reorienting attention. It is argued this primary function of the rTPJ has been extended beyond attention, through a process of evolutionarily cooption, to play a role in social cognition. We propose an alternative account, according to which the capacity for social cognition depends on a (...) network which is both distinct from and in tension with brain areas involved in focused attention and target detection: the default mode network. Theory characterizing the rTPJ based on the area’s purported role in reorienting may be falsely guided by the co-occurrence of two distinct effects in contiguous regions: activation of the supramarginal gyrus (SMG), associated with its functional role in target detection; and the transient release, during spatial reorienting, of suppression of the angular gyrus (AG) associated with focused attention. Findings based on meta-analysis and resting functional connectivity are presented which support this alternative account. We find distinct regions, possessing anti-correlated patterns of resting connectivity, associated with social reasoning (AG) and target detection (SMG) at the rTPJ. The locus for reorienting was spatially intermediate between the AG and SMG and showed a pattern of connectivity with similarities to social reasoning and target detection seeds. These findings highlight a general methodological concern for brain imaging. Given evidence that certain tasks not only activate some areas but also suppress activity in other areas, it is suggested that researchers need to distinguish two distinct putative mechanisms, either of which may produce an increase in activity in a brain area: functional engagement in the task versus release of suppression. (shrink)
In this article, we explore the implications of opposing domains theory for developing ethical leaders. Opposing domains theory highlights a neurological tension between analytic reasoning and socioemotional reasoning. Specifically, when we engage in analytic reasoning, we suppress our ability to engage in socioemotional reasoning and vice versa. In this article, we bring together the domains of neuroscience, psychology, and ethics, to inform our theorizing around ethical leadership. We propose that a key issue for ethical leadership is achieving a healthy balance (...) between analytic reasoning and socioemotional reasoning. We argue that organizational culture often encourages too heavy a reliance on nonemotional forms of reasoning to arrive at moral judgments. As a result, leaders run the risk of suppressing their ability to pay attention to the human side of moral dilemmas and, in doing so, dehumanize colleagues, particularly subordinates, and clients. (shrink)
Wegner's thesis that the experience of will is an illusion is not just wrong, it is an impediment to progress in psychology. We discuss two readings of Wegner's thesis and find that neither can motivate his larger conclusion. Wegner thinks science requires us to dismiss our experiences. Its real promise is to help us to make better sense of them.
One of the best gimmicks on the cognitive science conference circuit is the demonstration of inattentional blindness. Many readers of this journal must have already been exposed to it. For the rest we will briefly describe a striking and popular demonstration. It typically evolves during a conference talk, where the presenter provides the audience with a stimulus in the form of a small video clip of six people, three in white, three in black, who pass two basket balls around. The (...) instruction is to count the number of passes made by the players in white. When the movie is over, the presenter asks for a response, someone provides it, and he then goes on to elicit a report: 'Did anyone notice something strange during the film?' Usually, only those who have seen the film before have, but they are not allowed to answer. The film is then replayed, but this time, the audience is instructed to look out for anything unusual. Muted, surprised laughter goes through the auditorium when someone dressed as a gorilla enters into the scene of kids playing, confronts the spectators, bangs his chest, and slowly walks out again. It seems incredible that it went unnoticed the first time around, and yet those who have been exposed to the experiment before can testify that the gorilla was indeed there in both showings of the film. (shrink)
Those who are optimistic about the prospects of a science of consciousness, and those who believe that it lies beyond the reach of standard scientific methods, have something in common: both groups view consciousness as posing a special challenge for science. In this paper, we take a close look at the nature of this challenge. We show that popular conceptions of the problem of consciousness, epitomized by David Chalmers’ formulation of the ‘hard problem’, can be best explained as a cognitive (...) illusion, which arises as a by-product of our cognitive architecture. We present evidence from numerous sources to support our claim that we have a specialized system for thinking about phenomenal states, and that an inhibitory relationship exists between this system and the system we use to think about physical mechanisms. Even though the ‘hard problem’ is an illusion, unfortunately it appears that our cognitive architecture forces a closely related problem upon us. The ‘genuine problem’ of consciousness shares many features with the hard problem, and it also represents a special challenge for psychology. Nonetheless, researchers should be careful not to mistake the hard problem for the genuine problem, since the strategies appropriate for dealing with these problems differ in important respects. (shrink)
Bering contends that belief in the afterlife is explained by the simulation constraint hypothesis: the claim that we cannot imagine what it is like to be dead. This explanation suffers from some difficulties. First, it implies the existence of a corresponding belief in the “beforelife.” Second, a simpler explanation will suffice. Rather than appeal to constraints on our thoughts about death, we suggest that belief in the afterlife can be better explained by the lack of such constraints.
There has been considerable debate in the literature as to whether work in experimental philosophy actually makes any significant contribution to philosophy. One stated view is that many X-Phi projects, notwithstanding their focus on topics relevant to philosophy, contribute little to philosophical thought. Instead, it has been claimed the contribution they make appears to be to cognitive science. In contrast to this view, here we argue that at least one approach to X-Phi makes a contribution which parallels, and also extends, (...) historically salient forms of philosophical analysis, especially contributions from Immanuel Kant, William James, Peter F. Strawson and Thomas Nagel. The framework elaborated here synthesizes philosophical theory with empirical evidence from psychology and neuroscience and applies it to three perennial philosophical problems. According to this account, the origin of these three problems can be illuminated by viewing them as arising from a tension between two distinct types of cognition, each of which is associated with anatomically independent and functionally inhibitory neural networks. If the parallel we draw, between an empirical project and historically highly influential examples of philosophical analysis, is viewed as convincing, it follows that work in the cognitive sciences can contribute directly to philosophy. Further, this conclusion holds whether the empirical details of the account are correct or not. (shrink)
Better understanding the psychological factors related to certainty in one’s beliefs (i.e., dogmatism) has important consequences for both individuals and social groups. Generally, beliefs can find support from at least two different routes of information processing: social/moral considerations or analytic/empirical reasoning. Here, we investigate how these two psychological constructs relate to dogmatism in two groups of individuals who preferentially draw on the former or latter sort of information when forming beliefs about the world- religious and non religious individuals. Across two (...) studies and their pooled analysis, we provide evidence that although dogmatism is negatively related to analytic reasoning in both groups of individuals, it shares a divergent relationship with measures of moral concern depending on whether one identifies as religious or not. Study 1 showed that increasing levels of dogmatism were positively related to prosocial intentions among the religious and negatively related to empathic concern among the nonreligious. Study 2 replicated and extended these results by showing that perspective taking is negatively related to dogmatism in both groups, an effect which is particularly robust among the nonreligious. Study 2 also showed that religious fundamentalism was positively related to measures of moral concern among the religious. Because the current studies used a content neutral measure to assess dogmatic certainty in one’s beliefs, they have the potential to inform practices for most effectively communicating with and persuading religious and nonreligious individuals to change maladaptive behavior, even when the mode of discourse is unrelated to religious belief. (shrink)