Overgaard, Timmermans, Sandberg, and Cleeremans ask if the conscious experience of people in implicit learning experiments can be explored more fully than just confidence ratings allow. We show that confidence ratings play a vital role in such experiments, but are indeed incomplete in themselves: in addition, use of structural knowledge attributions and ratings of fringe feelings like familiarity are important in characterizing the phenomenology of the application of implicit knowledge.
In their comment on Sandberg, Timmermans, Overgaard, and Cleeremans , Dienes and Seth argue that increased sensitivity of the Perceptual Awareness Scale is a consequence of the scale being less exclusive rather than more exhaustive. According to Dienes and Seth, this is because PAS may measure some conscious content, though not necessarily relevant conscious content, “If one saw a square but was only aware of seeing a flash of something, then one has not consciously seen a square.” In this (...) reply, we claim that there is a difference between conscious visual experience, which may be partial, and the resulting conscious content, which is conceptual. Whereas PAS measures the first, confidence judgments and post-decision wagering measure the second. (shrink)
Dienes and Seth (2010) conclude that confidence ratings and post-decision wagering are two comparable and recommendable measures of conscious experience. In a recently submitted paper, we have however found that both methods are problematic and seem less suited to measure consciousness than a direct introspective measure. Here, we discuss the methodology and conclusions put forward by Dienes and Seth, and why we think the two experiments end up with so different recommendations.
Sandberg et al. show that the Perceptual Awareness Scale scale is sensitive compared to confidence ratings and wagering in detecting accurate perception. They go on to argue that the PAS scale is hence a sensitive measure of conscious perception compared to confidence ratings, a claim disputed here. The fact that some visual content is conscious does not entail that the visual content relevant to making a discrimination is conscious. For example, if one saw a square but was only aware of (...) seeing a flash of something, then one has not consciously seen a square. When PAS and confidence ratings come in conflict, we suggest that it is confidence ratings that more reliably indicate the conscious status of contents allowing discrimination. (shrink)
A recent report by Persaud et al. [Persaud, N., McLeod, P. & Cowey, A. . Post-decision wagering objectively measures awareness. Nature Neuroscience 10, 257–261] addresses a fundamental issue in consciousness science: the experimental measurement of conscious content. The authors propose a novel technique, ‘post-decision wagering’, in which subjects place bets on the correctness of decisions or discriminations. In this note, I critique the authors’ claim that their method “measures awareness directly”.
What is the best way of assessing the extent to which people are aware of a stimulus? Here, using a masked visual identification task, we compared three measures of subjective awareness: The Perceptual Awareness Scale , through which participants are asked to rate the clarity of their visual experience; confidence ratings , through which participants express their confidence in their identification decisions, and Post-decision wagering , in which participants place a monetary wager on their decisions. We conducted detailed explorations of (...) the relationships between awareness and identification performance, looking to determine which scale best correlates with performance, and whether we can detect performance in the absence of awareness and how the scales differ from each other in terms of revealing such unconscious processing. Based on these findings we discuss whether perceptual awareness should be considered graded or dichotomous. Results showed that PAS showed a much stronger performance-awareness correlation than either CR or PDW, particularly for low stimulus intensities. In general, all scales indicated above-chance performance when participants claimed not to have seen anything. However, such above-chance performance only showed when we also observed a correlation between awareness and performance. Thus PAS seems to be the most exhaustive measure of awareness, and we find support for above-chance performance in the absence of subjective awareness, but such unconscious knowledge only contributes to performance when we observe conscious knowledge as well. Similarities and differences between scales are discussed in the light of consciousness theories and response strategies. (shrink)
Can conscious awareness be ascertained from physiological responses alone? We evaluate a novel learning-based procedure permitting detection of conscious awareness without reliance on language comprehension or behavioural responses. The method exploits a situation whereby only consciously detected violations of an expectation alter skin conductance responses . Thirty participants listened to sequences of piano notes that, without their being told, predicted a pleasant fanfare or an aversive noise according to an abstract rule. Stimuli were presented without distraction , or while distracted (...) by a visual task to remove awareness of the rule . A test phase included occasional violations of the rule. Only participants attending the sounds reported awareness of violations and only they showed significantly greater SCR for noise occurring in violation, vs. accordance, with the rule. Our results establish theoretically significant dissociations between conscious and unconscious processing and furnish new opportunities for clinical assessment of residual consciousness in patient populations. (shrink)
When consciousness is examined using subjective ratings, the extent to which processing is conscious or unconscious is often estimated by calculating task performance at the subjective threshold or by calculating the correlation between accuracy and awareness. However, both these methods have certain limitations. In the present article, we propose describing task accuracy and awareness as functions of stimulus intensity as suggested by Koch and Preuschoff . The estimated lag between the curves describes how much stimulus intensity must increase for awareness (...) to change proportionally as much as accuracy and the slopes of the curves are used to assess how fast accuracy and awareness increases and whether awareness is dichotomous. The method is successfully employed to assess consciousness characteristics on data from four different awareness scales. (shrink)
The standard behavioral index for human consciousness is the ability to report events with accuracy. While this method is routinely used for scientific and medical applications in humans, it is not easy to generalize to other species. Brain evidence may lend itself more easily to comparative testing. Human consciousness involves widespread, relatively fast low-amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical core of the brain, driven by current tasks and conditions. These features have also been found in other mammals, which suggests that consciousness (...) is a major biological adaptation in mammals. We suggest more than a dozen additional properties of human consciousness that may be used to test comparative predictions. Such homologies are necessarily more remote in non-mammals, which do not share the thalamocortical complex. However, as we learn more we may be able to make “deeper” predictions that apply to some birds, reptiles, large-brained invertebrates, and perhaps other species. (shrink)
The Bayesian brain hypothesis provides an attractive unifying framework for perception, cognition, and action. We argue that the framework can also usefully integrate interoception, the sense of the internal physiological condition of the body. Our model of entails a new view of emotion as interoceptive inference and may account for a range of psychiatric disorders of selfhood.
Neural Darwinism (ND) is a large scale selectionist theory of brain development and function that has been hypothesized to relate to consciousness. According to ND, consciousness is entailed by reentrant interactions among neuronal populations in the thalamocortical system (the ‘dynamic core’). These interactions, which permit high-order discriminations among possible core states, confer selective advantages on organisms possessing them by linking current perceptual events to a past history of value-dependent learning. Here, we assess the consistency of ND with 16 widely recognized (...) properties of consciousness, both physiological (for example, consciousness is associated with widespread, relatively fast, low amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical system), and phenomenal (for example, consciousness involves the existence of a private flow of events available only to the experiencing subject). While no theory accounts fully for all of these properties at present, we find that ND and its recent extensions fare well. (shrink)
This commentary considers Merker's mesodiencephalic proposal in relation to quantitative measures of neural dynamics suggested to be relevant to consciousness. I suggest that even if critical neural mechanisms turn out to be subcortical, the functional utility of consciousness will depend on the rich conscious contents generated by continuous interaction of such mechanisms with a thalamocortical envelope. (Published Online May 1 2007).
The metacognitive stance of Smith et al. risks ignoring sensory consciousness. Although Smith et al. rightly caution against the tendency to preserve the uniqueness of the human mind at all costs, their reasoned stance is undermined by a selective association of consciousness with high-level cognitive operations. Neurobiological evidence may offer a more general, and hence more inclusive, basis for the systematic study of animal consciousness.
Most early studies of consciousness have focused on human subjects. This is understandable, given that humans are capable of reporting accurately the events they experience through language or by way of other kinds of voluntary response. As researchers turn their attention to other animals, “accurate report” methodologies become increasingly difficult to apply. Alternative strategies for amassing evidence for consciousness in non-human species include searching for evolutionary homologies in anatomical substrates and measurement of physiological correlates of conscious states. In addition, creative (...) means must be developed for eliciting behaviors consistent with consciousness. In this paper, we explore whether necessary conditions for consciousness can be established for species as disparate as birds and cephalopods. We conclude that a strong case can be made for avian species and that the case for cephalopods remains open. Nonetheless, a consistent effort should yield new means for interpreting animal behavior. (shrink)
We explore three methods for measuring the conscious status of knowledge using the artificial grammar learning paradigm. We show wagering is no more sensitive to conscious knowledge than simple verbal confidence reports but is affected by risk aversion. When people wager rather than give verbal confidence they are less ready to indicate high confidence. We introduce a “no-loss gambling” method which is insensitive to risk aversion. We show that when people are just as ready to bet on a genuine random (...) process as their own classification decisions, their classifications are still above baseline, indicating knowledge participants are not aware of having. Our results have methodological implications for any study investigating whether people are aware of knowing. (shrink)
Experimental studies investigating the contribution of conscious intention to the generation of a sense of agency for one’s own actions tend to rely upon a narrow definition of intention. Often it is operationalized as the conscious sensation of wanting to move right before movement. Existing results and discussion are therefore missing crucial aspects of intentions, namely intention as the conscious sensation of wanting to move in advance of the movement. In the present experiment we used an intentional binding paradigm, in (...) which we distinguished between immediate intention, as usually investigated, and longer standing intention. The results showed that the binding effect was significantly enhanced for distal intentions compared to proximal intentions, indicating that the former leads to stronger sense of agency. Our finding provides empirical support for a crucial distinction between at least two types of intention when addressing the efficacy of conscious intentions. (shrink)
Overgaard and Kirkeby-Hinrup conclude their comment on our Opinion article by asking, ‘Does SOMA entail that animals, children and many adults are not conscious?’ This question is indeed essential, and our answer is a clear: ‘We do not know, nor does anyone else.’ But we want to state right away that we believe they are. In this respect, Overgaard and Kirkeby-Hinrup’s core critique is misguided. We need to carefully distinguish between ethical and scientific considerations. Scientific claims are based (...) on what we think is the case, whereas ethical considerations are based on what we think ought to be the case. Thus, one might think that infants lack consciousness yet choose to act toward them as though they were. Hinduism considers that all living things are sacred and should not be harmed ( ahimsa). Jainists go further and will wear masks to avoid accidentally breathing in insects. Such beliefs and practices are independent of our scientific knowledge. Although one may wish that our ethics be informed by science, the former is independent of the latter and should in no way be subsidiary to it. Appealing to ethical considerations to rebut scientific claims is rhetorically unsound. (shrink)
Dienes & Perner's target article is not a satisfactory theory of implicit knowledge because in endorsing the representational theory of knowledge, the authors also inadvertently accept that only explicit knowledge can be causally efficacious, and hence that implicit knowledge is an inert category. This conflation between causal efficacy, knowledge, and explicitness is made clear through the authors' strategy, which consists of attributing any observable effect to the existence of representations that are as minimally explicit as needed to account for behavior. (...) In contrast, we believe that causally efficacious and fully implicit knowledge exists, and is best embodied in frameworks that depart radically from classical assumptions. (shrink)
Cognitive science is experiencing a pragmatic turn away from the traditional representation-centered framework toward a view that focuses on understanding cognition as "enactive." This enactive view holds that cognition does not produce models of the world but rather subserves action as it is grounded in sensorimotor skills. In this volume, experts from cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, robotics, and philosophy of mind assess the foundations and implications of a novel action-oriented view of cognition. Their contributions and supporting experimental evidence show that (...) an enactive approach to cognitive science enables strong conceptual advances, and the chapters explore key concepts for this new model of cognition. The contributors discuss the implications of an enactive approach for cognitive development; action-oriented models of cognitive processing; action-oriented understandings of consciousness and experience; and the accompanying paradigm shifts in the fields of philosophy, brain science, robotics, and psychology. ContributorsMoshe Bar, Lawrence W. Barsalov, Olaf Blanke, Jeannette Bohg, Martin V. Butz, Peter F. Dominey, Andreas K. Engel, Judith M. Ford, Karl J. Friston, Chris D. Frith, Shaun Gallagher, Antonia Hamilton, Tobias Heed, Cecilia Heyes, Elisabeth Hill, Matej Hoffmann, Jakob Hohwy, Bernhard Hommel, Atsushi Iriki, Pierre Jacob, Henrik Jörntell, Jürgen Jost, James Kilner, Günther Knoblich, Peter König, Danica Kragic, Miriam Kyselo, Alexander Maye, Marek McGann, Richard Menary, Thomas Metzinger, Ezequiel Morsella, Saskia Nagel, Kevin J. O'Regan, Pierre-Yves Oudeyer, Giovanni Pezzulo, Tony J. Prescott, Wolfgang Prinz, Friedemann Pulvermüller, Robert Rupert, Marti Sanchez-Fibla, Andrew Schwartz, Anil K. Seth, Vicky Southgate, Antonella Tramacere, John K. Tsotsos, Paul F. M. J. Verschure, Gabriella Vigliocco, Gottfried Vosgerau. (shrink)
A number of recent publications have argued that a scientific approach to consciousness needs a rigorous approach to first-person data collection. As mainstream experimental psychology has long abandoned such introspective or phenomenological method, there is at present no generally agreed upon method for first-person data collection in experimental consciousness studies. There are, however, a number of recent articles that all claim to provide a unique contribution to such a methodology. This article reviews these suggestions and extracts their core features. It (...) is argued that the suggested methods are generally overlapping and compatible, and a number of concrete methods that easily are applied to experimental studies are put forward. (shrink)
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