Vol. 14, No.1-2, January-February 2007

Special Issue on the Concepts of Consciousness: Integrating an Emerging Science
Edited by J. Scott Jordan & Dawn M. McBride

Refereed Papers

J. Scott Jordan & Dawn M. McBride  full text
Editorial Introduction
David Leech Anderson  abstract
Consciousness and Realism
Harald Atmanspacher  abstract
Contextual Emergence from Physics to Cognitive Neuroscience
Timothy L. Hubbard  abstract
What is Mental Representation? And How Does It Relate to Consciousness?
Andrew Bailey  abstract
Representation and a Science of Consciousness
John Barresi  abstract
Consciousness and Intentionality
Liliana Albertazzi  abstract
At the Roots of Consciousness
Cees van Leeuwen  abstract
What Needs to Emerge to Make You Conscious?
Robert Shaw & Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw  abstract
The Survival Value of Informed Awareness
Bernhard Hommel  abstract
Consciousness and Control
J. Scott Jordan & Marcello Ghin  abstract
The Role of Control in a Science of Consciousness
Dawn M. McBride  abstract
Methods for Measuring Conscious and Automatic Memory
Michael Spivey and Sarah Cargill  abstract
Toward a Continuity of Consciousness
Natalie Sebanz  abstract
The Emergence of Self
Sabine Maasen  abstract
Selves in Turmoil


David Leech Anderson

Consciousness and Realism

Abstract: There is a long and storied history of debates over ‘realism’ that has touched literally every academic discipline. Yet realism- antirealism debates play a relatively minor role in the contemporary study of consciousness. In this paper four basic varieties of realism and antirealism are explored (existential, epistemological, semantic, and ontological) and their potential impact on the study of consciousness is considered. Reasons are offered to explain why there is not more debate over these issues, including a discussion of the powerful influence of externalist versions of physicalist realism. Examples are given of approaches to consciousness studies that challenge contemporary versions of physicalist realism.

Correspondence: D.L. Anderson, Illinois State University

Harald Atmanspacher

Contextual Emergence from Physics to Cognitive Neuroscience

Abstract: The concept of contextual emergence has been proposed as a non-reductive, yet well-defined relation between different levels of description of physical and other systems.  It is illustrated for the transition from  statistical mechanics to thermodynamical properties such as temperature. Stability conditions are shown to be crucial for a rigorous implementation of contingent contexts that are required to understand temperature as an emergent property.

Are such stability conditions meaningful for contextual emergence beyond physics as well? An affirmative example from cognitive neuroscience addresses the relation between neurobiological and mental levels of description. For a particular class of partitions of the underlying neurobiological phase space, so-called generating partitions, the emergent mental states are stable under the dynamics. In this case, mental descriptions are (i) faithful representations of the neurodynamics and (ii) compatible with one another.

Correspondence: Harald Atmanspacher, IGPP, Wilhelmstr. 3a, D 79098 Freiburg, Germany.

Timothy L. Hubbard

What is Mental Representation? And How Does It Relate to Consciousness?

Abstract: The relationship between mental representation and consciousness is considered. What it means to ‘represent’, and several types of representation (e.g., analogue, digital, spatial, linguistic, mathematical), are described. Concepts relevant to mental representation in general (e.g., multiple levels of processing, structure/process differences, mapping) and in specific domains (e.g., mental imagery, linguistic/propositional theories, production systems, connectionism, dynamics) are discussed. Similarities (e.g., using distinctions between different forms of representation to predict different forms of consciousness, parallels between digital architectures of the brain and connectionist models) and dissociations (e.g., insensitivity to gaps in subjective experience, explicit memory/implicit memory, automatic processing/controlled processing, blindsight, neglect, prediction/ explanation) of mental representation and consciousness are discussed. It is concluded that representational systems are separable from consciousness systems, and that mental representation appears necessary but not sufficient for consciousness. Considerations for future research on correspondences between representation and consciousness are suggested.

Correspondence: Timothy Hubbard, Department of Psychology, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX 76129, USA.

Andrew Bailey

Representation and a Science of Consciousness

Abstract: The first part of this paper defends a ‘two-factor’ approach to mental representation by moving through various choice-points that map out the main peaks in the landscape of philosophical debate about representation. The choice-points considered are: (1) whether representations are conceptual or non-conceptual; (2) given that mental representation is conceptual, whether conscious perceptual representations are analog or digital; (3) given that the content of a representation is the concept it expresses, whether that content is individuated extensionally or intensionally; (4) whether intensional contents are individuated by external or internal conditions; and (5) given that conceptual content is determined externally, whether the possession conditions for concepts are external or internal. The final part of the paper examines the relationship between representation and consciousness, arguing that any account of mental representation, though necessary for a complete account of consciousness, cannot be sufficient for it.

Correspondence: Andrew Bailey, Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph,  Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada.

John Barresi

Consciousness and Intentionality

Abstract: My goal is to try to understand the intentionality of consciousness from a naturalistic perspective. My basic methodological assumption is that embodied agents, through their sensory-motor, affective, and cognitive activities directed at objects, engage in intentional relations with these objects. Furthermore, I assume that intentional relations can be viewed from a first- and a third-person perspective. What is called primary consciousness is the first-person perspective of the agent engaged in a current intentional relation. While primary consciousness posits an implicit ‘subject’ or ‘self,’ it is primarily oriented toward its ‘object.’ Acts of primary consciousness have only ephemeral existence, but when such acts are reflected upon by the agent reflexive or secondary conscious knowledge of oneself, as an embodied agent engaged in an intentional relation, is constituted. I show how these ideas relate to the understanding of intentional relations in human development and how they make possible adult understanding of philosophical notions of intentionality.

Correspondence: John Barresi, Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4J1, Canada.

Liliana Albertazzi

At the Roots of Consciousness: Intentional Presentations

Abstract: The Author argues for a non-semantic theory of intentionality, i.e. a theory of intentional reference rooted in the perceptive world. Specifically, the paper concerns two aspects of the original theory of intentionality: the structure of intentional objects as appearance (an unfolding spatio-temporal structure endowed with a direction), and the cognitive processes involved in a psychic act at the primary level of cognition. Examples are given from the experimental psychology of vision, with a particular emphasis on the relation between phenomenal space and colour appearances.

Correspondence: Liliana Albertazzi, Dept of Cognitive and Education Sciences, Trento University, Matteo del Ben Street, 5, Rovereto, Italy.

Cees van Leeuwen

What Needs to Emerge to Make You Conscious?

Abstract: Perceptual experience can be explained by contextualized brain dynamics. An inner loop of ongoing activity within the brain produces dynamic patterns of synchronization and de-synchronization that are necessary, but not sufficient, for visual experience. This inner loop is controlled by evolution, development, socialization, learning, task and perception-action contingencies, which constitute an outer loop. This outer loop is sufficient, but not necessary, for visual experience. Jointly, the inner and outer loop may offer sufficient and necessary conditions for the emergence of visual experience. This hypothesis has methodological, empirical, theoretical, and philosophical implications.

Correspondence: Cees van Leeuwen, RIKEN BSI, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako-shi, Saitama, 351-0198 Japan.

Robert Shaw and Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw

The Survival Value of Informed Awareness

Abstract: Various hypotheses about the importance of psycho-neural concomitants are reviewed and their implications discussed for the ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ problems of consciousness — especially, as viewed by cognitive and ecological psychology. In Ecological Psychology, where the subjective–objective dichotomy is repudiated, these concepts are without foundation, and are replaced by informed awareness, which is argued to play an important, perhaps, indispensable role in goal-directed actions and thus to have survival value. The significance of informed awareness is illustrated in several real- world goal-directed tasks.

Correspondence: Robert Shaw
Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw
Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action, University of Connecticut.

Bernhard Hommel

Consciousness and Control: Not Identical Twins

Abstract: Human cognition and action are intentional and goal-directed, and explaining how they are controlled is one of the most important tasks of the cognitive sciences. After half a century of benign neglect this task is enjoying increased attention.  Unfortunately, however, current theorizing about control in general, and the role of consciousness for/in control in particular, suffers from major conceptual flaws that lead to confusion regarding the following distinctions:  (i) automatic and unintentional processes, (ii) exogenous control and disturbance (in a control-theoretical sense) of endogenous control, (iii) conscious control and conscious access to control, and  (iv) personal and systems levels of analysis and explanation. Only if these flaws are overcome will a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between consciousness and control emerge.

Correspondence: Bernhard Hommel, Leiden University, Department of Psychology, Cognitive  Psychology Unit, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands.

J. Scott Jordan and Marcello Ghin

The Role of Control in a Science of Consciousness: Causality, Regulation and Self-sustainment

Abstract: There is quite a bit of disagreement in cognitive science regarding the role that consciousness and control play in explanations of how people do what they do. The purpose of the present paper is to do the following: (1) examine the theoretical choice points that have lead theorists to conflicting positions, (2) examine the philosophical and empirical problems different theories encounter as they address the issue of conscious agency, and (3) provide an integrative framework (Wild Systems Theory) that addresses these problems and potentially naturalizes conscious agency. It does so by grounding conscious and control in the notion of self-sustaining energy-transformation systems (i.e., living systems), versus computational or self- organizing systems, as is the case in information processing theory and dynamical systems theory, respectively. Given its assertion that content (and consciousness) emerges in self-sustaining systems, Wild Systems Theory may also provide a sound theoretical basis for a science of consciousness in general.

Correspondence: J. Scott Jordan, Department of Psychology, Campus Box 4620, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61760-4620, USA.
Marcello Ghin, Universität Paderborn, Fakultät für Kulturwissenschaften,  33098 Paderborn, Germany.

Dawn M. McBride

Methods for Measuring Conscious and Automatic Memory: A Brief Review

Abstract: Memory researchers have discussed the relationship between consciousness and memory frequently in the last few decades. Beginning with research by Warrington and Weiskrantz (1968; 1970), memory has been shown to influence task performance even without awareness of retrieval. Data from amnesic patients show that a study episode influences task performance despite their lack of conscious memory for the study session. More recently, issues of intentionality, awareness, and the relationship between conscious and unconscious forms of memory have come to the forefront. Conscious memory has sometimes been defined by intention to retrieve and sometimes by awareness of retrieval. This distinction has been debated as measurement methodologies have developed. In addition, the functional relationship between conscious and automatic forms of memory has implications for measurement of memory processes and the development of models of memory task performance. Several measurement techniques for conscious and automatic memory are reviewed. The current state of these issues is also discussed.

Correspondence: Dawn M. McBride, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University, Campus Box 4620, Normal, IL 61790-4620, USA.

Michael Spivey and Sarah Cargill

Toward a Continuity of Consciousness

Abstract: Real-time cognition is continuous in time and contiguous in mental state space. This temporal continuity implies that the majority of mental life is spent in states that are partially consistent with multiple representations. The state-space contiguity implies that different cognitive processes interact in ways that make them quite non-modular. As the evidence for such information-permeability expands to include not just neural subsystems but also the entire brain and even the entire organism, this radical interactionism leads one to hypothesize that mental activity, and perhaps consciousness itself, is something that emerges amid the interface between one’s body and one’s environment. We portray mental activity as a continuous trajectory through a brain-body-environment state space, where close visitations with labelled attractors may constitute reportable self-consciousness and traversals through unlabeled regions may constitute unutterable immediate conscious awareness.

Correspondence: Michael Spivey, Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Natalie Sebanz

The Emergence of Self: Sensing Agency through Joint Action

Abstract: This article explores the role of social factors in the emergence of self and other. It is suggested that the experience of causing actions contributes to a basic sense of self in which awareness of mental states and the experience of a mental self are grounded. According to the proposed evolutionary scenario, the experience of agency emerged as individuals acting in social context learned to differentiate between effects caused by their own actions and effects resulting from joint action. Through joint action, individuals also developed an understanding of others’ actions as goal-directed, paving the way for imitation. The ability to distinguish between action capabilities of self and other and the understanding that action-effect principles apply equally to self and other may have provided important advantages in circumstances where cooperative action and social learning were critical. The current proposal adds to previous evolutionary scenarios in that it identifies social conditions that may have shaped a basic sense of self. This, in turn, could have given rise to theory of mind and the cultural construction of mental selves.

Correspondence: Natalie Sebanz, Psychology Department, Rutgers University, 101 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.

Sabine Maasen

Selves in Turmoil: Neurocognitive and Societal Challenges of the Self

Abstract: As the cognitive neurosciences set out to challenge our understanding of consciousness, the existing conceptual panoply of meanings attached to the term remains largely unaccounted for. By way of bibliometric analysis, the following study first reveals the breadth and shift of meanings over the last decades, the main tendency being a more ‘brainy’ concept of consciousness. On this basis, the emergence of consciousness studies is regarded as a ‘trading zone’ (Galison) in which experimental, philosophical and experiential accounts are dialectically engaged. Outside of academic discourse, a neurocognitive concept of consciousness is embraced by popular self-help literature that sweepingly adopts this new discourse and the novel neuropharmacological tools in the self-help toolbox. Consciousness studies are hence not only the product of epistemological and methodological struggles (scientific dimension) but also part of the current re-alignments regarding the notion of consciously acting selves in society (societal dimension).

Correspondence: Sabine Maasen, University of Basel, Switzerland.

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