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A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness

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Conscious experience is one of the most difficult and thorny problems in psychological science. Its study has been neglected for many years, either because it was thought to be too difficult, or because the relevant evidence was thought to be poor. Bernard Baars suggests a way to specify empirical constraints on a theory of consciousness by contrasting well established conscious phenomena -- such as stimulus representations known to be attended, perceptual, and informative with closely comparable unconscious ones...
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Overview

Conscious experience is one of the most difficult and thorny problems in psychological science. Its study has been neglected for many years, either because it was thought to be too difficult, or because the relevant evidence was thought to be poor. Bernard Baars suggests a way to specify empirical constraints on a theory of consciousness by contrasting well established conscious phenomena -- such as stimulus representations known to be attended, perceptual, and informative with closely comparable unconscious ones such as stimulus representations known to be preperceptual, unattended, or habituated. Adducing data to show that consciousness is associated with a kind of global workplace in the nervous system, and that several brain structures are known to behave in accordance with his theory, Baars helps to clarify many difficult problems.
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Editorial Reviews

Bruce Bridgeman
Baars' book promises to be a milestone in creating a theoretical framework for future consciousness research. It will also be a benchmark against which future theories are tested.
Psyche
Booknews
By contrasting well-established conscious phenomena with closely comparable unconscious ones, Barr (Wright Institute, Berkeley, Calif.) suggests a way to specify empirical constraints on a theory of consciousness and thus clarifies many issues connected with this great, confusing, and contentious nub of psychological science. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Bruce Bridgeman
Baars' book promises to be a milestone in creating a theoretical framework for future consciousness research. It will also be a benchmark against which future theories are tested.
Psyche
From the Publisher
'A clear-eyed, open-minded analysis of the problems of consciousness, and a wide-ranging synthesis of a variety of approaches. For those who want to join the race to model consciousness, this is the starting line.' Daniel C. Dennett

'With this model, the author sweeps through dozens of phenomena that are well known to students of sensation, perception, learning abstraction, language, thinking, and problem solving. In each case he interprets the model in terms of the global model workplace and thus produces an admirable piece of scholarship. The most enduring contribution of the book may be its challenge to cognitive scientists to return to their roots, to describe and explain consciousness. Without a decent theory of consciousness, cognitive science may be adrift. If that is so, then (this work) deserves to be read by many.' Contemporary Psychology

'The book includes 'numerous whimsical experiments … in order to demonstrate points best appreciated experimentally. Anyone with a playful nature will find these illustrations captivating.' Contemporary Psychiatry

'The powerful core of Baars' model of consciousness is the global workspace, a kind of central bulletin board. It allows scores of specialized mental subsystems (expert but narrow) to contribute to the resolution of novel problems. Baars is careful and thoughtful, and shows constant concern for the testability of his ideas.' Dr. David Galin, Langley Porter Psychiatry Institute, University of California, San Francisco

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521301336
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/24/1989
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.61 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

List of figures and tables xi
Preface xv
Part I Introduction 1
1 What is to be explained? Some preliminaries 3
1.0 Introduction 3
1.1 Some history and a look ahead 4
1.2 What is to be explained? A first definition of the topic 13
1.3 Some attempts to understand conscious experience 28
1.4 Unconscious specialized processors: A gathering consensus 43
1.5 Some common themes in this book 64
1.6 Chapter summary and a look ahead 70
Part II The basic model 71
2 Model 1: Conscious representations are internally consistent and globally distributed 73
2.0 Introduction 73
2.1 Contrasting the capabilities of conscious and unconscious processes 74
2.2 The basic model: A global workspace (blackboard) in a distributed system of intelligent information processors 86
2.3 How the theoretical metaphor fits the evidence of Table 2.1 89
2.4 Input properties of the global workspace 96
2.5 Output properties of the global workspace: How global is global? 99
2.6 Further considerations 104
2.7 Testable predictions and counterarguments 108
2.8 Chapter summary 117
3 The neural basis of conscious experience 119
3.0 Introduction 119
3.1 The neurophysiological fit with Model 1 121
3.2 Extensions suggested by the neurophysiology 128
3.3 Recent refinements of the neurophysiological evidence 131
3.4 Chapter summary 134
Part III The fundamental role of context 135
4 Model 2: Unconscious contexts shape conscious experience 137
4.0 Introduction 137
4.1 Sources of evidence on contexts 139
4.2 Several kinds of contexts 151
4.3 Modeling contextual knowledge 161
4.4 Some plausible properties of contexts 166
4.5 Implications for empirical testing 173
4.6 Chapter summary 176
5 Model 3: Conscious experience is informative - it always demands some degree of adaptation 177
5.0 Introduction: Information and adaptation 177
5.1 The adaptation cycle: Any learnable task goes from context-creation to conscious information to redundancy 184
5.2 Human beings also seek information at many levels 199
5.3 Model 3: Interpreting informativeness in the theory 203
5.4 When repeated experiences do not fade: Is informativeness a necessary condition for conscious experience? 208
5.5 Implications for learning 213
5.6 Some experimental predictions 219
5.7 Other implications 220
5.8 Chapter summary 221
Part IV Goals and voluntary control 223
6 Model 4: Goal contexts, spontaneous problem solving, and the stream of consciousness 225
6.0 Introduction 225
6.1 The tip-of-the-tongue state as a goal context or intention 226
6.2 The conscious-unconscious-conscious (CUC) triad 233
6.3 Empirical assessment of goal contexts 239
6.4 Goal contexts and the stream of consciousness 240
6.5 Further implications 243
6.6 Chapter summary 245
7 Model 5: Volition as ideomotor control of thought and action 246
7.0 Introduction 246
7.1 Is there a problem of volition? Some contrasts between similar voluntary and involuntary actions 248
7.2 Voluntary action resembles spontaneous problem solving 257
7.3 Model 5: The ideomotor theory in modern garb 259
7.4 Evidence bearing on the ideomotor theory 267
7.5 Explaining the voluntary-involuntary contrasts 273
7.6 Wider implications 279
7.7 Absorption and hypnosis as ideomotor events 287
7.8 Conflicts between goals 292
7.9 Chapter summary 296
Part V Attention, self, and conscious self-monitoring 299
8 Model 6: Attention as control of access to consciousness 301
8.0 Introduction: Attention versus consciousness 301
8.1 Voluntary and automatic control of access to consciousness 305
8.2 Modeling voluntary and automatic access control 307
8.3 Directing attention toward something 314
8.4 Directing attention away from something: Suppression, repression, and emotional conflict 317
8.5 Further implications 321
8.6 Chapter summary 324
9 Model 7: Self as the dominant context of experience and action 325
9.0 Introduction 325
9.1 Contrasting self and not-self experiences 331
9.2 Modeling self and self-concept 336
9.3 Further questions to explore 341
9.4 Chapter summary 344
Part VI Consciousness is functional 345
10 The functions of consciousness 347
10.0 Introduction 347
10.1 Definitional and Context-setting Function 350
10.2 Adaptation and Learning Function 351
10.3 Editing, Flagging, and Debugging Function 351
10.4 Recruiting and Control Function 352
10.5 Prioritizing and Access-control Function 352
10.6 Decision-making or Executive Function 353
10.7 Analogy-forming Function 353
10.8 Metacognitive or Self-monitoring Function 354
10.9 Autoprogramming and Self-maintenance Function 355
10.10 Chapter summary 356
Part VII Conclusion 357
11 A summary and some future directions 359
11.0 Introduction 359
11.1 Overall review 359
11.2 A brief review of the models 360
11.3 What are the necessary conditions for conscious experience? 362
11.4 Some practical implications of GW theory 364
11.5 Topics not covered in this volume 364
11.6 Philosophical implications: The mind-body problem revisited 365
11.7 Future directions for research and theory 365
Glossary and guide to theoretical claims 367
References 393
Name index 411
Subject index 416
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