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)
Subliminal perception (SP) is today considered a well-supported theory stating that perception can occur without conscious awareness and have a significant impact on later behaviour and thought. In this article, we first present and discuss different approaches to the study of SP. In doing this, we claim that most approaches are based on a dichotomic measure of awareness. Drawing upon recent advances and discussions in the study of introspection and phenomenological psychology, we argue for both the possibility and necessity of (...) using an elaborated measure of subjective states. In the second part of the article, we present findings where these considerations are implemented in an empirical study. The results and implications are discussed in detail, both with reference to SP, and in relation to the more general problem of using elaborate introspective reports as data in relation to studies of cognition. (shrink)
In a recent article, [Sergent, C. & Dehaene, S. . Is consciousness a gradual phenomenon? Evidence for an all-or-none bifurcation during the attentional blink, Psychological Science, 15, 720–729] claim to give experimental support to the thesis that there is a clear transition between conscious and unconscious perception. This idea is opposed to theoretical arguments that we should think of conscious perception as a continuum of clarity, with e.g., fringe conscious states [Mangan, B. . Sensation’s ghost—the non-sensory “fringe” of consciousness, Psyche, (...) 7, 18]. In the experimental study described in this article, we find support for this opposite notion that we should have a parsimonious account of conscious perception. Our reported finding relates to the hypothesis that there is more than one perceptual threshold [Merikle, P.M., Smilek, D. & Eastwood, J.D. . Perception without awareness: perspectives from cognitive psychology, Cognition, 79, 115–134], but goes further to argue that there are different “levels” of conscious perception. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that awareness comes in degrees, and we propose a novel multi-factor account that spans both subjective experiences and perceptual representations. At the subjective level, we argue that conscious experiences can be degraded by being fragmented, less salient, too generic, or flash-like. At the representational level, we identify corresponding features of perceptual representations—their availability for working memory, intensity, precision, and stability—and argue that the mechanisms that affect these features are what ultimately modulate the degree of awareness. (...) We conclude the paper by demonstrating why the original interpretations of certain empirical findings that apparently pose problems for our account are, in fact, flawed. (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)
Blindsight is classically defined as residual visual capacity, e.g., to detect and identify visual stimuli, in the total absence of perceptual awareness following lesions to V1. However, whereas most experiments have investigated what blindsight patients can and cannot do, the literature contains several, often contradictory, remarks about remaining visual experience. This review examines closer these remarks as well as experiments that directly approach the nature of possibly spared visual experiences in blindsight.
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.
Comparison of behavioural measures of consciousness has attracted much attention recently. In a recent article, Szczepanowski et al. conclude that confidence ratings predict accuracy better than both the perceptual awareness scale and post-decision wagering when using stimuli with emotional content . Although we find the study interesting, we disagree with the conclusion that CR is superior to PAS because of two methodological issues. First, the conclusion is not based on a formal test. We performed this test and found no evidence (...) that CR predicted accuracy better than PAS . Second, Szczepanowski et al. used the present version of PAS in a manner somewhat different from how it was originally intended, and the participants may not have been adequately instructed. We end our commentary with a set of recommendations for future studies using PAS. (shrink)
The relation between first and higher order mental states is currently unknown. In particular, the relation between conscious experience and introspection is difficult as the same methods are used to investigate them. In order to make progress in the scientific understanding of consciousness, introspection or both, it is fundamental to understand whether their relation is serial or reciprocal. Although the amount of empirical evidence directly addressing this question is sparse, the little that exists suggests a more complex situation that must (...) be taken into account in order to characterise the relationship between first and higher order mental states. We propose a testable integrative model in an attempt to explain the existing data and to make new empirical predictions. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Brogaard presents counter-arguments to the conclusions of an experiment with blindsight subject GR. She argues that contrary to the apparent findings that GR’s preserved visual abilities relate to degraded visual experiences, she is in fact fully unconscious of the stimuli she correctly identifies. In this paper, we present arguments and evidence why Brogaard’s argument does not succeed in its purpose. We suggest that not only is relevant empirical evidence in opposition to Brogaard’s argument, her argument misconstrues (...) necessary criteria to decide whether a conscious experience is visual or not visual. (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)
In the attempt to construct a scientific approach to consciousness, it has been proposed that transcendental phenomenology or phenomenological psychology be introduced into the framework of cognitive neuroscience. In this article, the consequences of such an approach in terms of basic assumptions, methods for the collection of data, and evaluation of the collected data are discussed. Especially, the proposed notions of mutual constraint and the second perso are discussed. It is concluded that even though naturalising of phenomenology might not prove (...) impossible, the projec has not yet found a coherent basic ground. (shrink)
As is the case with other concepts about mental affairs, the concept of introspection has many different interpretations. Some seem to consider introspecting a perceptive act and others see it as a thinking activity . For the present purpose, we will claim it as a common understanding in all such theories that introspection presupposes consciousness . States of consciousness, broadly discussed in the philosophical and empirical literature as first order states of consciousness, are states in which a subject is aware (...) of some or other object, thought, or feeling. Introspective states, however, are states in which a subject directs his or her attention towards their own conscious state. According to this understanding which we claim is a widespread one introspection can exist only in conscious subjects, and, furthermore, it is by way of introspection that a subject can learn about having this or that experience. To avoid misunderstandings, we wish to underline that the claim is not that experiencing as such is dependent upon such acts of introspection. On the contrary, we believe that a subject can have all kinds of intero- and exteroceptive experiences, directing attention towards the represented object . It is only when the subject directs attention not towards the object as such but towards the very state of being conscious of the object that he or she is introspective. (shrink)
To study whether the distinction between introspective and non-introspective states of mind is an empirical reality or merely a conceptual distinction, we measured event-related potentials elicited in introspective and non-introspective instruction conditions while the observers were trying to detect the presence of a masked stimulus. The ERPs indicated measurable differences related to introspection in both preconscious and conscious processes. Our data support the hypothesis that introspective states empirically differ from non-introspective states.
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)
Several authors within psychology, neuroscience and philosophy take for granted that standard empirical research techniques are applicable when studying consciousness. In this article, it is discussed whether one of the key methods in cognitive neuroscience – the contrastive analysis – suffers from any serious confounding when applied to the field of consciousness studies; that is to say, if there are any systematic difficulties when studying consciousness with this method that make the results untrustworthy. Through an analysis of theoretical arguments in (...) favour of using contrastive analysis, combined with analyses of empirical findings, I conclude by arguing for three factors that currently are confounding of research using contrastive analysis. These are (1) unconscious processes, (2) introspective reports, and (3) attention. (shrink)
We describe a patient LS, profoundly deaf in both ears from birth, with underdeveloped superior temporal gyri. Without hearing aids, LS displays no ability to detect sounds below a fixed threshold of 60 dBs, which classifies him as clinically deaf. Under these no-hearing-aid conditions, when presented with a forced-choice paradigm in which he is asked to consciously respond, he is unable to make above-chance judgments about the presence or location of sounds. However, he is able to make above-chance judgments about (...) the content of sounds presented to him under forced-choice conditions. We demonstrated that LS has faint sensations from auditory stimuli, but questionable awareness of auditory content. LS thus has a form of type-2 deaf hearing with respect to auditory content. As in the case of a subject with acquired deafness and deaf hearing reported on a previous occasion, LS’s condition of deaf hearing is akin in some respects to type-2 blindsight. As for the case of type 2 blindsight the case indicates that a form of conscious hearing can arise in the absence of a fully developed auditory cortex. (shrink)
'Behavioral Methods in Consciousness Research' is the first book of its kind, providing an overview of methods and approaches for studying consciousness. The chapters are written by leading researchers and experts who describe the methods they actually use in their own studies, along with their pitfalls, problems, and difficulties.
One supposition underlying the Anderson & Lebiere target article is that the maximally broad “encompassing of its subject matter – the behavior of man” is regarded as an unquestioned quality criterion for guiding cognitive research. One might argue for an explicit specification of the limitations of a given paradigm, rather than extending it to apply to as many domains as possible.
This article presents the view that the problem of consciousness per definition can not be seen as a strictly scientific or strictly philosophical problem. The first idea, especially, leads to important difficulties: First of all, the idea has in most cases implied some rather superficial reductionistic or functionalistic a priori assumptions, and, secondly, it can be shown that some of the most commonly used empirical methods in these regards are inadequate. Especially so in the case of contrastive analysis, (...) widely used in cognitive neuroscience. However, this criticism does not lead to the conclusion that scientific methods are inadequate as such, only that they always work on a pre-established background of theory, of which one must be explicit. (shrink)