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Consciousness

Consciousness
(12-12-2019, 02:41 PM)Dānu Wrote: Oh, and rereading your post, I note that you said the author you're going to read believes that questions such as irreducibility can ultimately be resolved empirically.  I'm relatively confident from my own thinking that resolving it empirically is an impossibility.  I certainly am not going to fault the author for not having access to my thoughts on the matter, but it bodes ill for the supposed strength of the author's thinking if what I think about it is true.

I am nevertheless interested in what Professor Carl Gillett has to say about the issues involved, as well as about the experts in the field of consciousness studies who he addresses. Being informed about the debate will be helpful.

Here is the Amazon blurb for Reduction and Emergence in Science and Philosophy:

Quote:https://www.amazon.com/Reduction-Emergen...186&sr=8-1

Grand debates over reduction and emergence are playing out across the sciences, but these debates have reached a stalemate, with both sides declaring victory on empirical grounds. In this book, Carl Gillett provides theoretical frameworks with which to understand these debates, illuminating both the novel positions of scientific reductionists and emergentists and the recent empirical advances that drive these new views. Gillett also highlights the flaws in existing philosophical frameworks and reorients the discussion to reflect the new scientific advances and issues, including the nature of 'parts' and 'wholes', the character of aggregation, and thus the continuity of nature itself. Most importantly, Gillett shows how disputes about concrete scientific cases are empirically resolvable and hence how we can break the scientific stalemate.
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Consciousness
Well, I look forward to hearing from you once you've had a chance to read it. I may put it on my reading list as well.
[Image: giant%20meteor%202020.jpg]
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Consciousness
(12-13-2019, 02:27 PM)Dānu Wrote: Well, I look forward to hearing from you once you've had a chance to read it.  I may put it on my reading list as well.

I'm not sure I could recommend the book to anyone, considering it is perhaps the most difficult book I have read.  Here is my book report:

This is a summary of points from Reduction and Emergence In Science and Philosophy by Carl Gillett, Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University, published by Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Scientists and philosophers have been arguing about reductionism versus emergentism for some time.  Proponents on both sides claim they have proven their perspectives with their arguments and with evidence from the sciences.  The author critically assesses these claims to come to his own conclusions.  He states at the outset, “Far from being mere rhetoric, recent scientific battles over reduction and emergence involve competing, substantive, scientific hypotheses that differ over the nature, and structure, of concrete cases of compositional explanation in the sciences in empirically resolvable ways.”

(Since the author assesses these various claims by delving into what are to me some very obscure philosophical arguments, I will content myself with offering his conclusions.  Anyone with a philosophical background would likely follow such arguments better than I did.  I would likely have to reread the book several times, and perhaps read more about philosophy in general, to understand it all.)

One of the author’s first conclusions is that philosophical arguments have lagged behind the sciences, so that their ideas are now outdated.  “We have reasons to believe that only the scientific discussions have fully succeeded in pursuing the metaphysics of science.”  In fact, the progress in the sciences is measured by how much both sides now agree about.  What the author calls “the compositional explanations of everyday reductionism” are accepted by both sides.  Similarly, both sides also accept that new properties emerge from new combinations of materials.  Their disagreements are now much more specific and have to be defined and assessed carefully.

In general, scientific reductionists claim “wholes are nothing but their parts.”  What they mean by this is an ontological claim that “the entities of microphysics, as the fundamental components, determine everything to the degree it is determined at all.”  So the laws of physics “exhaustively govern both components and the entities they compose in more complex collectives.”  Compared with the philosophical perspective of semantic (Nagelian) reductionism, which overlooks compositional explanations, tries to dispense with the higher sciences, and endorses the non-existence of the macro-world, scientific reductionism accepts compositional explanations, embraces the higher sciences, and endorses the macro-world.  Nevertheless, scientific reductionists typically claim that all of the higher sciences are reducible to the lower sciences and that a Theory of Everything is literally possible.

In contrast, scientific emergentists claim “wholes are more than the sum of their parts,” or “parts behave differently in wholes.”  They base these contentions on observations from various areas of study, including high-energy superconductivity, thermodynamical systems, Benard cells in chemistry, the eukaryotic cell, slime mold, neural populations, the behavior of eusocial insects like ants and bees, and the flocking behaviors of vertebrates, and not just from the gaps in our knowledge in consciousness studies and applications of quantum physics.  Some emergentists also defend “a ‘downward’ determinative influence that such emergent ‘wholes’ exert upon their ‘parts’” and that “there are ‘organizational’ laws involving emergent composed entities” which are also fundamental laws.  So they do not agree that a Theory of Everything based on physics alone is possible.

The author goes on to describe the different varieties of emergence theories.  Qualitative Emergence is based on novel powers, properties, kinds of individuals, or processes which emerge in complex structures.  Weak or W-Emergence is based on properties which can’t be derived, computed, or predicted from the laws, explanations, or theories regarding its components.  He rejects both Qualitative Emergence and W-Emergence, and says they are not “live” or viable alternatives to scientific reductionism.  He states, “Compositional explanations in the sciences routinely explain Qualitative Emergent entities using lower-level entities taken to compose them.”  He also concludes that W-Emergent properties are not irreducible, since “the unpredictability of an entity does not suffice for ontological irreducibility.”  He then points out that the parsimony principle undermines the claims of emergentists who do not embrace some idea of downward determination from the whole to the parts.

That leaves two other varieties of emergence which do include the concept of downward determination.  Ontological or O-Emergence is promoted by some philosophers but virtually no scientists because it maintains that O-Emergent properties are not composed.  In other words, it proposes that non-physical, fundamental energies move masses, above and beyond the fundamental forces in physics.  The author also rejects this perspective as non-viable.  

That leaves Strong or S-Emergence as the only variety of emergence which the author says is still viable.  S-Emergence claims that there exist higher-level, composed properties that are determinative.  Those emergentists who hold “enriched”views embrace such additional ontological commitments, “including downward causation; the role of boundary, environmental, or background conditions; reduction in degrees of freedom and/or higher-level constraints; entrainment or enslavement; unpredictability or undeducibility of certain kinds; and more.”

The author then describes yet another reductionistic perspective that he thinks is also still a live position.  Referring to the first reductionist view as Simple Fundamentalism, he refers to this second alternative as Conditioned Fundamentalism, and it incorporates a certain number of ideas from S-Emergentism.  Simple Fundamentalism is based on the simple view of aggregation, which states that “the aggregation of components is continuous and only involves determination by other components.”  Conditioned Fundamentalism is based on the conditioned view of aggregation, which states that “the contributions of powers by components in complex collectives is discontinuous with their contributions in simple collectives, components contribute differential powers, and the laws and/or principles of composition holding of components in simpler collectives do not exhaust the laws covering such components in the relevant complex collective.”  Or in other words, it adopts the emergentist idea that “parts behave differently in wholes” while maintaining that the component parts are still responsible, not the whole itself.

After considering various criticisms of the S-Emergent perspective, the author concludes that it can make no sense unless it embraces the idea of machresis or machretic determination.  Because an emergent property which is composed of reducible parts can’t have new forces beyond those of physics, it must embrace machretic determination.  “Machretic determination is non-productive and non-causal because it is a mass-energy neutral relation, is not identical to the triggering and manifestation of powers, is synchronous, involves entities that are in some sense the same, and does not involve the transfer of energy or mediation of force.”  The author calls this variety of S-Emergence “Mutualism,” since the components and the wholes are mutually determinative.  Further, Mutualism requires emergent laws which express the role of downward determination.  There are two types of such emergent laws: supercessional, which replace existing laws, and supplemental, which add to existing laws.  In other words, simple rules can be supplanted by other rules.  This is why no final Theory of Everything is possible from a Mutualist perspective.

We now have three alternative perspectives the author considers as viable from his reasoning about the present evidence.  Two reductionist perspectives and one emergentist perspective remain: Simple Fundamentalism, Conditioned Fundamentalism, and Mutualism.  All three accept the compositional explanations of everyday reductionism, qualitative emergence, and the indispensability of the higher sciences.  Conditioned Fundamentalism and Mutualism accept the conditioned view of aggregation, while Simple Fundamentalism accepts the simple view.  Both Conditioned Fundamentalism and Mutualism accept discontinuities, differential powers, and further fundamental laws.  And only Mutualism accepts the existence of determinative higher-level entities.

The author proposes that these perspectives can be confirmed or disconfirmed by empirical evidence now that their various characteristic have been defined in detail.  He says we need evidence to move beyond the “de facto stalemate in scientific discussions,” but now have three possibilities which “are all substantive scientific hypotheses.”  To test Simple Fundamentalism, we need to examine whether complex collectives contribute differential powers.  This can be established by comparing simple to complex collectives.  Assuming we have proven differential powers, we can then move on to prove either Conditioned Fundamentalism or Mutualism.  We need to answer a few additional questions: “Are the contributions of differential powers by the components in the complex collective machretically determined by the composed entities?” and “Are the supplemental/supercessional laws holding of the components in the complex collective emergent laws referring to at least one strongly emergent composed entity and its machretic determination?”  The author goes on to point out that only by looking at the evidence across the sciences, and not just from physics, can we answer such questions.  He calls that “inclusivism.”

Finally the author concludes, “I have shown that the ‘established views’ on both sides of the debate, in philosophy and the sciences, have failed to address crucial theoretical issues, endorsed bad arguments and false dichotomies, and overlooked candidates for live positions.”  “Neither Fundamentalism nor Mutualism has been successfully established as the best hypothesis about even [the] favored scientific examples.”  And both sides haven’t addressed the “strongest opposing hypotheses and the key issues in dispute with them.”

My comment: I think that the determinative properties of consciousness, including free will, clearly fall under the concept of Mutualism, a variety of Strong Emergentism, which is not yet disproven.
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Consciousness
Alan V, very interesting read. Thank you for the summary.

So many people think that this is settled science. In fact, it is not even a scientific theory--it is a metaphysical theory. Science can help test the theory to be sure. But to say, it must reductionist because...physics/theory of everything is a category error.  

met·a·phys·ics
/ˌmedəˈfiziks/
the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.
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Consciousness
(12-23-2019, 05:14 PM)SteveII Wrote: Alan V, very interesting read. Thank you for the summary.

So many people think that this is settled science. In fact, it is not even a scientific theory--it is a metaphysical theory. Science can help test the theory to be sure. But to say, it must reductionist because...physics/theory of everything is a category error.  

met·a·phys·ics
/ˌmedəˈfiziks/
the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.

I assume science will be able to explain consciousness adequately someday, but we aren't there yet.  Hopefully, the subject will migrate from metaphysics to a science of whatever kind.  In the meantime, we still need philosophers like this one to help us sort out our assumptions in this way.
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Consciousness
The part about consciousness I find very interesting is how so many complex animals, our selves included, need and are able to attend to more than one thing at once.  It particularly becomes interesting with creatures such as ourselves who form a self-concept and live in a world which is informed as much by culture as nature.

I'm still working my way through Ian McGilchrist's 2009 book The Master and His Emissary but my goodness, what a slog.  I admire his writing a great deal but what he is addressing is very difficult to express well.  Recently I came across an interview which premiered in fall of this year which is probably more easily accessible even if less comprehensive.



If you haven't already seen it you might contrast it with the animated video of a lecture he gave which is more ambitiously comprehensive, though no where near as much so as the book.  I've posted this older one multiple times before.  (I may be a little obsessed.)

"Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I'll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one's own way is better than to go right in someone else's. 
F. D.
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Consciousness
(12-29-2019, 12:43 AM)Mark Wrote: The part about consciousness I find very interesting is how so many complex animals, our selves included, need and are able to attend to more than one thing at once.  It particularly becomes interesting with creatures such as ourselves who form a self-concept and live in a world which is informed as much by culture as nature.

What you are interested in is the balance between specialization and generalization.  I like to think of myself as a generalist: someone with a wide range of interests who is trying to fit them all together, like pieces in a puzzle, to make one image or map of the world.  That's one reason I admire both Big History and consciousness research so much.  They simplify and unify a lot of information with wide applications.

Retirees can often find that balance better than those still employed or busy with families, since we have the time to stand back from day-to-day concerns.
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Consciousness
(12-29-2019, 06:29 PM)Alan V Wrote:
(12-29-2019, 12:43 AM)Mark Wrote: The part about consciousness I find very interesting is how so many complex animals, our selves included, need and are able to attend to more than one thing at once.  It particularly becomes interesting with creatures such as ourselves who form a self-concept and live in a world which is informed as much by culture as nature.

What you are interested in is the balance between specialization and generalization.  I like to think of myself as a generalist: someone with a wide range of interests who is trying to fit them all together, like pieces in a puzzle, to make one image or map of the world.  That's one reason I admire both Big History and consciousness research so much.  They simplify and unify a lot of information with wide applications.

Retirees can often find that balance better than those still employed or busy with families, since we have the time to stand back from day-to-day concerns.

I'm not a generalist.  I call myself a dilettante; know a lot about a few fairly esoteric things. A little  about all the things which interest me.   So am pig ignorant  about most things.
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Consciousness
(12-30-2019, 04:25 AM)grympy Wrote: I'm not a generalist.  I call myself a dilettante; know a lot about a few fairly esoteric things. A little  about all the things which interest me.   So am pig ignorant  about most things.

When I was working, our company created satellites.  Nevertheless, I once worked with an engineering manager who read a lot about anesthesiology.  That was his hobby.  I couldn't understand the basis for this detailed interest, since he wasn't a specialist who would apply such information himself.  

If it was me, I would tend to forget the specifics of what I'd read unless I applied in in some way.  That's why I have no aptitude for learning languages, I guess.  So I write general summaries to help me remember the main points.
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Consciousness
Here is a short summary of points from the book Cognitive Neuroscience: A Very Short Introduction by Professor Richard Passingham at the University of Oxford, published in 2016:

Cognitive neuroscience is “a relatively new branch of science.” As late as the 1960s when behaviorism was still in style, brain inputs and outputs were charted with black box diagrams since so much was unknown. But by the late 1970s, the new science emerged from brain damage studies. Positron emission tomography (PET scans) were invented in the 1980s and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI scans) in the 1990s. Scientists used both to study healthy brains and have published over 30,000 studies detailing what brain imagining tells us about human cognition.

Colored patches on brain images show changes in blood supply, which reflect brain activation, an indirect measure of brain activity. These images show comparisons “between experimental and control conditions,” so they reflect differences in activation, not complete activation. “Most of the results reported in this book come from difference images of this sort.” These images tell us about “what the human mind can and cannot do and what happens when it goes wrong, whether from illness, damage, or age.”

Both damage and imaging studies show that the brain is “a patchwork of discrete areas” and that “different areas perform different functions” – both localization and specialization. Sensory information (vision, hearing, touch, smell) is processed in parallel pathways for speed. Such relays of information progress from primary to secondary areas in specific, traceable sequences. For instance, the vision system registers small elements then progressively integrates them into larger elements for more complete representations. Both the visual and the somatosensory systems have maps built into the brain to represent the relationships between various areas of input, which are distorted by their importance. For instance, in Penfield’s famous cortical homunculus, the hands are represented by larger areas in the brain than the feet.

However, not all processing is parallel. “Bottom-up” signals from sensory areas are processed in parallel, but “top-down signals from the cortex can exert a selective effect in three ways:” They can:
1) “set up the task by enhancing processing in the relevant sensory stream,”
2) “set up the targets by creating a template against which they can be matched,” and
3) “inhibit processing in the irrelevant stream” in the face of distractions.

Multitasking slows top-down responses since the “same area is engaged in both tasks.” This area is the point at which “sensory input is transformed into the motor output” – the ventral prefrontal cortex bottleneck. In other words, “the interference occurs at the point at which a decision is taken as to the appropriate response. It is here that the processing is serial.” But “the activation in the ventral prefrontal cortex is over more quickly when a task has been overtrained.”

Here is a list of what some of the other areas of the brain do:
Identify objects by shape (lateral occipital or LO complex)
Perceive movements of objects (middle temporal or MT complex)
Discriminate faces (fusiform face area or FFA in inferior temporal cortex)
View pictures of scenes or large objects (parahippocampal complex)
Map external space (several parietal areas)
Tell us where we are in our surroundings (hippocampus)
Store episodic or autobiographical memories (medial system, including the hippocampus)
Store semantic memories of facts we are taught (ventral and lateral system)
Solve problems with fluid intelligence (parietal and dorsal prefrontal cortex)
Solve problems with general intelligence (dorsal executive system)
Rotate designs or elements of designs (parietal cortex)
Represent relationships (parietal cortex)
Reason (middle temporal cortex and ventral prefrontal cortex in left hemisphere)
Perform the executive control over the brain’s other systems (parietal/prefrontal system)
Produce and understand language (left hemisphere in most people)
Produce spoken language and understand gestures (Broca’s area)
Comprehend spoken language (Wernicke’s area)
Represent visual space on the opposite side from its hemisphere (dorsal attention system)
Represent the whole of visual space (ventral attention system)
Perform multimodal tasks (parietal cortex, prefrontal cortex)
Learn from trial and error or by imagining trial and error (prefrontal cortex)
Generate sequences and prepare to repeat them (prefrontal cortex)
Prepare, decide, and plan for the future (dorsal prefrontal cortex)
Think about how others feel (ventromedial prefrontal cortex)
Infer intentions from watching actions (ventral prefrontal cortex)
Infer intentions from intuition (rostral cingulate cortex)
Learn from errors (anterior cingulate cortex)
Automate actions and language skills (cerebellum)

The hippocampus is also very important for remembering past events, navigating from one point to another, and imagining future events. Interestingly, damage to speech areas does not result in an inability to reason.

The brain’s executive system in the prefrontal cortex can take up a wide range of tasks, plan ahead, and influence actions. It possesses the “ability to ponder the alternatives” and make decisions. It “stands in a unique position at the top of the hierarchy of processing” since it “receives inputs from all sense modalities” – from vision (the inferior temporal cortex), hearing (the superior temporal cortex), touch (the secondary somatic sensory area in the parietal lobe), and visual space (the inferior parietal lobe). From this input, “the prefrontal cortex is in a position to form a multimodal representation of the current situation in the world outside.”

The orbital prefrontal cortex also receives information about changes in hunger, thirst, and temperature from the hypothalamus through the amydgala. The dorsal prefrontal cortex can then influence actions through its connections with the premotor areas in front of the motor cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is strongly interconnected, and associates sensory inputs with actions and actions with outcomes. The “costs and values of different choices” are processed by the ventral prefrontal cortex. Altogether, this system enables the “moment-to-moment flexibility” which is possible only when our behaviors are under attentive control. When habits are employed, the prefrontal cortex is no longer engaged. But it reengages when habits are no longer appropriate.

Practicing new behaviors is slower because awareness needs time to consider alternatives. This is especially true of difficult and complex tasks, where the awareness of mistakes must build up to guide future actions.

So our brains have the capacity to monitor our behavior, to self-regulate. About Libet’s work, the author said, “For someone who is not a dualist there is no ‘me’ apart from my brain and body; and if so, there is no ‘me’ for the brain to push around. So long as the brain is healthy, the actions that the brain generates are taken to be the actions that the person generates.”

Although all of this tells us where such actions happen in the brain, it still doesn’t tell us how. At the end, the author mentioned a new technology called magneto-encephalography (MEG), which can detect magnetic signals from the electric activity of neurons. This may allow scientists to better time events to determine more sequences, and perhaps do so with a portable device which will be able to monitor a wider range of behaviors.
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Consciousness
Here is a short summary of some of the points from the book The Brain: A Very Short Introduction by Professor Michael O’Shea of the University of Sussex, published in 2005. I include only a selection pertinent to this discussion because my original summary ran almost twice as long.

The human brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) with 100 trillion connections, or an average of 1000 per cell. The neurons transmit, communicate, store, and retrieve information by means of electrical and chemical signals. Information from the senses must undergo sensory transduction, or the conversion of stimuli into electrical signals, the most common currency of brain activity.

These electrical signals are transmitted along the neuron cell bodies. Junctions between neurons are synapses. Electrical synapses are like hard-wired connections and can usually tranmit information bi-directionally. Chemical synapses have a gap across which electrical signals don’t pass. Instead, electrical signals cause the release of neurotransmitters at a neuron’s axon terminations, which are received by dentrites or the cell body of other neurons and reconverted to electrical signals to pass on. So chemical neurons can pass information in one direction only along “an alternating chain of electrical and chemical signals.”

Neurotransmitters are primary messengers. Second messengers are a neuron’s own internal message molecules, which can alter physiological properties of neurons and their synapses, either briefly for short-term (working) memories or for extended periods for long-term memories. Such second messengers can change gene expression in the nucleus so that proteins are synthesized to change synapses and alter connections. Messenger molecules such as nitric oxide can even diffuse messages through volumes of the brain without direct connections. The results are that “the neurons and their synapses are in a constant state of flux – the connections are dynamic, changing their strength, size, and location; being formed and unformed.”

The brain also has between 10 and 100 times as many glial cells as neurons. The funtions of these cells are not as well-understood, but scientists know they clean up dead cells, help direct information traffic, produce myelin to insulate neurons, and insulate neurons with their own bodies.

A brain is a part of an extended system including a spinal cord and nerves reaching into every part of the body, which both influence and are influenced by the body’s other components. This communication is not just through electrical signals, but also through the release of hormones into the blood by both the brain and the endocrine glands in different parts of the body.

This is all there is to the physical nervous system: neurons, connections, electricity, glial cells, blood vessels, blood, and chemical messengers and receptors. These most basic structures and mechanisms are the same for all animals. What is different between the brains of different species are the numbers of neurons employed to code information. For instance, primitive worms (nematodes) have 300 neurons; snails have 20,000; and honeybees have 1 million compared with humans’ 100 billion.

It took millions of years for human brains to evolve to this level of complexity. The basic function of any brain is to sense and respond to the environment and internal states, but such functions are not unique to nervous systems. Even primitive cells can sense and move. But cell cooperation in multi-cell organisms led to specialization through differentiation. That set the stage for the evolution of nervous systems.

In simpler organisms, sensory and motor neurons did most all the work. In higher animals, there has been a proliferation of inter-neurons as well. “By mediating between sensing and motor functions, inter-neurons allow an animal’s behaviour to become less determined by automatic reactions to external stimuli. In effect inter-neurons introduce the possibility of a cognitive gap between stimulus and response, allowing for intelligent consideration of options, ‘thinking’ in other words, before actions are executed. Inter-neuron proliferation also provided the numbers necessary for greater memory capacity and for more sophisticated processing of information.”

In human brains, the hindbrain is controlled by the midbrain, which is controlled by the forebrain. The forebrain is the executive center of the brain. The cerebral cortex assembles sensory information into conscious perceptions. It plans, imagines, judges, and initiates voluntary behaviors. It has 1 million input/output neurons but more than 10 billion internal connections, which means it “spends most of its time talking to itself.”

Sensory information is critical to perceptions, yet perceptions are different than sensations. “It is possible to perceive what is not sensed, not to perceive what is sensed, and to construct more than one perception from the same sensations.” This is because “perceptions are the brain’s educated guesses about what the combined senses are telling it.” Most of our memories are of such fallable perceptions rather than of unprocessed sensory information.

Memories allow us to build up associations, generate new ideas, and acquire language. Short-term memory is always full, yet forgotten almost as quickly as it is replaced. Still, with it we can understand the present and recent past. It also plays a “crucial role in comprehending spoken and written language.” Only some bits of short-term memories are processed into long-term memories.

So the brain is physically altered by certain conscious experiences. “Flash bulb memory shows that emotional association is a powerful facilitator of long-term memory formation,” although practice and rehersal play very important roles as well. Long-term memories are of various sorts. Semantic (explicit) memories are of our declarative or factual knowledge, and are stored in modules by categories with associations. Procedural (implicit) memories are of processes like how to ride a bike or type on a keyboard, and are stored in the basal ganglia and cerebellum. Episodic (autobiographical) memories are of past events, and are highly selective, idiosyncratic, and possibly false. They “can be recalled deliberately or are triggered by evocative sensory stimuli.”

Memories are stored in physical locations in the brain. The hippocampus enables the processing of long-term memories, including spacial information, but does not affect the brain’s ability to acquire new procedural skills. Such procedural memories depend on the motor and sensory cortex, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum. So different types of memories depend on different brain regions.

Our experiences are not passive. Our consciousness keeps an eye on external events and our internal states while concentrating with focused attention on certain selected information in accordance with our interests, also while ignoring potential distractions which are in competition for our limited awareness. Consciousness darts from one thing to another to build up a picture of the world to respond to. A specific brain mechanism eliminates blurs “and protects you from visual overload.” Many other unconscious and nonconscious processes support consciousness in these activities as well.
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Consciousness
Here is a short summary of major points from the book Memory: A Very Short Introduction by Professor Jonathan Foster of the University of Western Australia, published in 2009:

Without memory, “we would be unable to speak, read, identify objects, navigate our way around our environment, or maintain personal relationships.” As Michael Gazzaniga said, “Everything in life is memory, save for the thin edge of the present.” We see the influences of memories in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Memory is not passive, it is continually modified as we integrate new information into old memories. So memory is essential reconstructive as opposed to reproductive. It involves top-down interpretations as well as bottom-up inputs of information. It depends on our assumptions, interests, motivations, and emotional reactions. Memory is similar to how a paleontologist “constructs a dinosaur from an incomplete set of bones.” This is why memories can be unreliable, and why accounts differ between people, or even from the same person at different times.

Our memory system works by encoding, storage, and retrieval. Poor attention is an encoding problem, forgetting is a storage problem, and difficulty of access is a retrieval problem. Our rate of forgetting is exponential, yet we can relearn “lost” information faster, so it leaves a residual trace.

Memory is a multi-component system. Sensory memory operates below the threshold of consciousness and only holds information for about a second, so it is rich in content but brief in duration. Such sensory information will not even enter short-term memory unless we pay attention to it. Short-term or working memory has a capacity of about 7 +/- 2 items, like a phone number for instance. The information is stored “in an acoustic or phonological form,” and sometimes semantically. “The terms ‘working memory’ and ‘short-term memory’ are also often used synonymously with consciousness.” New items displace old items. Long-term memory is created by paying attention and by rehersal, and seems to have an unlimited capacity. The information is stored primarily by meanings, but the top-down imposition of meanings “can often lead to distortions and biases in memory.” To use computer metaphors, short-term memory is like RAM and long-term memory is like a hard drive.

Evidence shows working memory has four components, the central executive and three slave systems. The central executive “controls attention and coordinates the slave systems.” The slave systems include “the visuo-spacial sketchpad” (managing mental images), “the phonological loop” (managing language), and “the episodic buffer” (which “integrates and manipulates material.” “The episodic buffer allows us to extrapolate beyond what already exists in long-term memory, to combine it in different ways, and to use it to create novel scenarios on which future actions are based.”

Long-term memories are stored in different ways. Episodic memories are recollections of times, places, and emotions. Sematic memories are of our general knowledge. Episodic memories tend to be processed into sematic memories over time, as more, similar-type experiences are processed and associated together in groups. We also store procedural memories, like how to ride a bike, which are “independent of consciously accessible memory.” Each memory system can be damaged in different ways. For instance, amnesic syndrome impairs episodic memory, dementia can impair semantic memory, and Parkinson’s disease affects procedural memory.

There are also both explicit (conscious) and implicit memories. The latter may affect behaviors “without conscious recollection of the original events.” These are demonstrated by priming studies, in which people are fed information without their registering it and as a result change their subsequent behaviors measurably. For instance, the exposure effect makes certain things more attractive by mere exposure. This is how commercials work.

Different factors affect how well we can access our memories. Similar contexts, emotions, and physical states allow better access to memories coded during similar circumstances. Cued recall is easier than free recall, but “can also introduce distortion and bias” if questions are leading. There is a continuum of difficult to automatic recall: free recall, cued recall, recognition, the feeling of familiarity, and unconscious behavioral influence.

Similarly, different factors underlie forgetting. Memories do tend to fade with time, but can also be “disrupted, obscured or overlaid by other memories.” Flashbulb memories and those memories we reminisce about tend to remain vivid, especially those from adolescence and early adulthood. However, sematic memories tend to intrude on them. We build up “schemas” for typical experiences, which help us interrelate details of various memories. “Expectations provide schemas that can either facilitate or mislead with respect to our memory functioning” since “we filter out what is inconsistent” with our schemas.

Since our memories are reconstructed from bits and pieces plus our semantic knowledge, our memories become blurred with what is imagined or suggested. Although real memories tend to be more vivid and detailed, “there is no completely reliable way to distinguishing between ‘real’ and ‘imagined’ memories.” This is why eyewitness accounts are often so unreliable. Our memories are biased “to be consistent with our general world view.” Both “recovered” and false memories can be created after the fact. “Although people may remember corrections to earlier misinformation, they may nevertheless continue to rely on the discredited information.” According to memory expert Dan Schacter, “The Seven Sins of Memory” are 1) absent-mindedness (not paying attention), 2) transience, 3) blocking (forgetting what we want to remember), 4) misattribution, 5) suggestibility, 6) bias, and 7) persistence (remembering what we want to forget, like traumas).

The hippocampus is a core memory structure which sorts or consolidates memories. “Important memories are ‘printed’ by the hippocampus, and then filed away (as ‘books’) indefinitely in the cerebral cortex” (the ‘library’). Amnesic syndrome results from damage to the hippocampus or diencephalon. With anterograde amnesia, one can’t make new permanent memories. With retrograde amnesia, one can’t remember old permanent memories. “Intelligence, language, and immediate memory span are maintained, but long-term memory is severely impaired.” Amnesia has little effect on procedural or implicit memories, but can impair declarative (explicit) memories, both episodic and semantic. Amnesiacs can even learn new skills without remembering they did so. “Different subtypes of amnesia have different characteristics, depending on the precise location of the brain damage.”

However, not all varieties of amnesia are caused by brain damage or illness. Psychogenic amnesia, or a dissociative or fugue state, is “often caused by an event of a violent nature, such as physical or sexual abuse, or having committed or witnessed a murder.” The sufferer may take on a new identity in a different location, and only “come to” days, months, or years later. People can even suffer from multiple personality disorder, but some individuals have faked amnesia to escape certain legal consequences.

“Amnesia has profound philosophical implications, given the degree to which our ongoing sense of personhood, self, and identity is intimately entwined with our memory.”

With PET and fMRI scans, we now know that “many parts of the brain are active when someone is remembering.” These implicate “a host of brain regions that previously were not strongly associated with memory (such as the prefrontal cortex ... in encoding and retrieval).”

Certain abilities which improve memory formation and access improve with age, including language, problem solving, hypothesis testing, and reasoning. But the most important improvement for memory is the maturation of the brain itself. Infants typically don’t remember their lives before the age of four or so, and childhood memories are particularly vulnerable to distortions.

Although older people usually maintain their short-term memory, semantic and implicit memories, and recognition abilities, the consequences of aging typically include declines in cognitive memory skills, explicit long-term memory, and especially free recall. Older people also often become “more susceptible to suggestion and bias,” like children. The frontal lobes mature late and deteriorate early, resulting in the loss of strategic and organizational skills, prospective memory (remembering to do something), and meta-memory (awareness of memory abilities), resulting in lost processing speed.

A higher proportion of older people with mild cognitive impairment “convert to full-blown dementia.” Physical and mental exercise, as well as a diet “low in saturated fats and high in antioxidants,” help older people maintain their abilities. However, there is presently no cure for “senile dementia of the Alzheimer type,” which results in “deficits in episodic memory and hippocampal functioning” in the early stages, and language, perception, executive function, and explicit and implicit memory deterioration in later stages. Semantic dementia results in the breakdown of face and object recognition.

Improving memory retention involves distributed practice (a little at a time and often), focussed attention, coding both verbally and visually, imposing meanings on the material, building up associations, writing notes, teaching others to learn better oneself, and being motivated and persistent. Useful mnemonics include codes, visual imagery, rhymes, and music. But forgetting is also adaptive because it filters out unnecessary information.
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Consciousness
Here is a short summary of a few points from the book Perception: A Very Short Introduction by Professor Brian Rogers of the University of Oxford, published in 2017:

Perception extracts information from the external world, and seems to include unconscious processing that results in no subjective experience. There are two theories of perception:

The indirect or constructivist theory of perception claims:
1) that perceptual processes make unconscious inferences, “like hypotheses in science,”
2) that we construct our perceptions from limited and insufficient sensory information,
3) that meaning is added rather than contained in the sense data,
4) that illusions are explained when our inferences are incorrect,
5) that the primary role of perception is to create subjective experiences or qualia,
6) that perception recognizes or identifies objects.

The direct theory of perception claims:
1) that there is no need for inferences, since our perceptual systems were evolved,
2) that we pick up rich information which is sufficient to perceive correctly,
3) that meaning is contained in the sense data,
4) that illusions show our evolved perceptual strategies, but so do our correct perceptions,
5) that the primary role of perception is to guide actions, whether experience is involved or not,
6) that perception presents us with “affordances,” or options to act on.

The author then goes on to elucidate the direct theory throughout the book. He maintains that the direct theory is “more consistent with what we know about the perceptual systems” of lower animals, whose behaviors are more directly connected to sensory inputs. There is no need to “invoke ideas of inference or hypothesis testing, either consciously or unconsciously.” He explains that while we do indeed make cognitive inferences, they are separate from basic perception.

The author discussed a number of topics in this light, among which were:
* exterospecific information: the 3-D structure and layout of the world,
* propriospecific information: the observer’s movements in respect to the world,
* how a “single stimulus can give rise to multiple percepts,”
* how “multiple stimuli can result in the same percept,” for instance size and lightness constancy,
* how we perceive depth from cues, like shape from shading, perspective, texture, or occlusions,
* how “optic flow,” or changing information, helps us overcome possible illusions,
* and how illusions can have either a physiological or cognitive basis.

These are a few of the author’s more interesting conclusions: “It seems very likely that our perceptual systems have evolved to extract the invariant characteristics of the world – the things that don’t change – rather than requiring mechanisms to ‘correct’ for things that do change.” Also, “there is considerable debate at present as to whether, or to what extent, our perceptual processes are cognitively penetrable: that is, affected by higher-level processes of attention, expectations, emotions, and knowledge.” For low-level perceptions, they seem not to be, but for detection of affordances, they are.

My comment: I learned the indirect theory when I was studying psychology, so this perspective is new to me. I probably didn't understand all of the author's points, which accounts for the abbreviated summary.
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Once again, your efforts are appreciated.

Definitely won't be bothering with that book. Big Grin
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Perhaps consciousness is far less complex- or far more- than we make it out to be.

I don't think a subconscious actually exists, despite all the interpretations we have. Everything we experience is firstly experienced on a conscious level. Without original input via our sensory faculties, nothing enters the mind. We would have no memories, and no imagination. Therefore, everything in our minds would actually be on a conscious level. Some things that leave a more indelible imprint would remain more vivid, while other more mundane things would be regulated and compartmentalized in a "not very important" section of our memories, and thereby more difficult to recall.

Some rather painful memories would be suppressed deeply by our conscious, which would avoid recalling them in an effort to avoid the pain; a defensive mechanism.

When tests seem to indicate that our responses originate from the subconscious as we react to certain stimuli, why can't this reaction be equally determined as coming from the conscious? What if our consciousness is far greater than we think it is, and our reaction to certain stimuli is actually the result of conscious decision making? What if- between the moment we make a decision and the moment we react to it- there is an instant of validation (fact checking) of our decision, which accounts for a short delay of our finalized decision?

Do we understand the consciousness well enough to rule this out?
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(02-16-2020, 02:16 AM)Free Wrote: Perhaps consciousness is far less complex- or far more- than we make it out to be.
...

Less.  Much, much less. 

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Consciousness
(02-16-2020, 02:16 AM)Free Wrote: I don't think a subconscious actually exists, despite all the interpretations we have. Everything we experience is firstly experienced on a conscious level.

If you are talking about the Freudian or Jungian versions of the subconscious, then no.  But information is processed by our brains without our awareness involved.  Recent studies have been able to isolate the neural signature of consciousness from such unconscious processing by experiments with sensory thresholds.  Comparing subjective reports of when people become aware when a threshold is crossed with brain scans, scientists can see what additional circuits light up.

Consciousness IS subjective experience, per one definition I read.

(02-16-2020, 02:16 AM)Free Wrote: Without original input via our sensory faculties, nothing enters the mind. We would have no memories, and no imagination. Therefore, everything in our minds would actually be on a conscious level.

While it is true that much of what occupies our minds derives from external information, we nevertheless spend a lot of time talking to ourselves in our brains.  Dreaming is one example.  While dreaming depends on what we have learned, it is also endlessly creative.  So the brain creates its own information too.

(02-16-2020, 02:16 AM)Free Wrote: Some things that leave a more indelible imprint would remain more vivid, while other more mundane things would be regulated and compartmentalized in a "not very important" section of our memories, and thereby more difficult to recall.

That kind of sounds like the difference between episodic and semantic memories.

(02-16-2020, 02:16 AM)Free Wrote: Some rather painful memories would be suppressed deeply by our conscious, which would avoid recalling them in an effort to avoid the pain; a defensive mechanism.

Painful memories are likely "suppressed" by the mere fact that their pain is beyond our abilities to record it, like a light which is too bright to see properly.  At least, that would be my opinion.  We would be in sorry shape if we could recall pain as sharply as we experienced it originally.

(02-16-2020, 02:16 AM)Free Wrote: When tests seem to indicate that our responses originate from the subconscious as we react to certain stimuli, why can't this reaction be equally determined as coming from the conscious? What if our consciousness is far greater than we think it is, and our reaction to certain stimuli is actually the result of conscious decision making? What if between the moment we make a decision and the moment we react to it there is an instant of validation (fact checking) our decision, which accounts for a finalized decision?

Do we understand the consciousness well enough to rule this out?

It is true that some of our automatic responses were originally consciously practiced, like my typing on this keyboard without thinking about it.  At most, our consciousness monitors for errors to correct.  But I would say that if you are not experiencing it, you are not conscious of it per the definition above.

My own introspection tells me I react before I am aware, emotionally for instance, and can moderate such fast reactions with slower consciousness after the fact.  This makes sense, when you consider that the speed of signals in the brain is more-or-less fixed, and consciousness typically requires more processing through more complex neural circuits.
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(02-16-2020, 02:56 AM)Alan V Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 02:16 AM)Free Wrote: When tests seem to indicate that our responses originate from the subconscious as we react to certain stimuli, why can't this reaction be equally determined as coming from the conscious? What if our consciousness is far greater than we think it is, and our reaction to certain stimuli is actually the result of conscious decision making? What if between the moment we make a decision and the moment we react to it there is an instant of validation (fact checking) our decision, which accounts for a finalized decision?

Do we understand the consciousness well enough to rule this out?

My own introspection tells me I react before I am aware, emotionally for instance, and can moderate such fast reactions with slower consciousness after the fact.  This makes sense, when you consider that the speed of signals in the brain is more-or-less fixed, and consciousness typically requires more processing through more complex neural circuits.

An image flashes up on a screen, and you see the following which asks for you to make a choice:

"1 + 1 =2. 

True or False?"

We already know what the answer is because we learned it consciously years ago, and see it again periodically over time, always refreshing our memory.

If our consciousness is more than mere awareness, but perhaps also includes our memories, then the reaction you speak of would also be a conscious reaction. What I am saying is that perhaps we are more aware of the reaction than we realize, since within us all is the memory that such things as 1 + 1 = 2 has already been consciously validated through previous conscious experience, and the reaction we have is not a decision making process because the decision was already made through previous consciously aware experiences.

If a question popped up on the screen such as;

"976982 X 236598 = 231,151,987,236

True or False?"

We likely would have no memory of experiencing this equation, and therefore what would our reaction be? It would be indecisive, and unless we could solve the equation in our heads we would be forced to consciously make a calculated guess as to whether the answer is True or False.

I guess my point in a nutshell is that the decision was never made on a subconscious level, but rather it was made previously on a conscious level and then imprinted in memory, only to be recalled with what appears to be a reactionary response, but that reactionary response never made a decision, but only pushed forward the decision that was already consciously previously arrived at?

It makes sense to me that the decisions we make are made based upon previous knowledge, which creates a memory of having already previously and consciously making the decision in question.

Therefore, perhaps a decision is not being made subconsciously, but what could actually be happening is a retrieval of a memory of that previous consciously aware decision- or a very similar decision-  is what's actually occurring?
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(02-16-2020, 05:21 PM)Free Wrote: ...
An image flashes up on a screen, and you see the following which asks for you to make a choice:

"1 + 1 =2. 

True or False?"
...

Where's the "It depends" option?  Big Grin

There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who do not.  Girl_nails

(02-16-2020, 05:21 PM)Free Wrote: ...
I guess my point in a nutshell is that the decision was never made on a subconscious level, but rather it was made previously on a conscious level and then imprinted in memory, only to be recalled with what appears to be a reactionary response, but that reactionary response never made a decision, but only pushed forward the decision that was already consciously previously arrived at?

It makes sense to me that the decisions we make are made based upon previous knowledge, which creates a memory of having already previously and consciously making the decision in question.

Therefore, perhaps a decision is not being made subconsciously, but what could actually be happening is a retrieval of a memory of that previous consciously aware decision- or a very similar decision-  is what's actually occurring?

Yup.  Your are referring to Change Enablement methodology, (specifically the difference between a 'normal' change and a 'standard' change) and its interrelationship with Configuration Management / Asset Management methodology (which holds the baseline i.e. memory).

Flow diagrams available on request.
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(02-16-2020, 05:21 PM)Free Wrote: If our consciousness is more than mere awareness, but perhaps also includes our memories, then the reaction you speak of would also be a conscious reaction. What I am saying is that perhaps we are more aware of the reaction than we realize, since within us all is the memory that such things as 1 + 1 = 2 has already been consciously validated through previous conscious experience, and the reaction we have is not a decision making process because the decision was already made through previous consciously aware experiences.

I certainly agree that some people don't give consciousness enough credit for past decisions and actions which automatically carry us along in the present.  Consciousness may have limited scope in the present, but it is pervasive over time.

I am currently reading and taking notes from one of the better books on consciousness which I have read so far.  In a few weeks I will post a report, but one of its helpful features is that it breaks down the separate aspects of consciousness which we conflate under one umbrella term.  Scientists have to do that to study consciousness properly.

(02-16-2020, 05:21 PM)Free Wrote: I guess my point in a nutshell is that the decision was never made on a subconscious level, but rather it was made previously on a conscious level and then imprinted in memory, only to be recalled with what appears to be a reactionary response, but that reactionary response never made a decision, but only pushed forward the decision that was already consciously previously arrived at?

And yet, subconscious processing of information does occur.  Sensory information goes through all sorts of processing before it is presented to our awareness to pay attention to or not.  We also have certain reflexive, instinctive, and emotional responses which have little to do with our past conscious decision-making.  Even the direction of our attention itself is controlled subconsciously.

The way I like to think about it is this: whatever evolution could make automatic, it did.  Consciousness is just an evolutionary strategy to optimize our behaviors for our specific, unpredictable circumstances. Whatever was predictable could be automated.
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(02-17-2020, 11:16 AM)Alan V Wrote: ...The way I like to think about it is this: whatever evolution could make automatic, it did.  Consciousness is just an evolutionary strategy to optimize our behaviors for our specific, unpredictable circumstances.  Whatever was predictable could be automated.

Exactly.  Our conscious tells us that an electric iron is turned on should we accidentally
touch it, and our subconscious tells us to withdraw our hand to avoid a burn. No thought
processing necessary.
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Consciousness
(02-17-2020, 11:16 AM)Alan V Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 05:21 PM)Free Wrote: If our consciousness is more than mere awareness, but perhaps also includes our memories, then the reaction you speak of would also be a conscious reaction. What I am saying is that perhaps we are more aware of the reaction than we realize, since within us all is the memory that such things as 1 + 1 = 2 has already been consciously validated through previous conscious experience, and the reaction we have is not a decision making process because the decision was already made through previous consciously aware experiences.

I certainly agree that some people don't give consciousness enough credit for past decisions and actions which automatically carry us along in the present.  Consciousness may have limited scope in the present, but it is pervasive over time.

I am currently reading and taking notes from one of the better books on consciousness which I have read so far.  In a few weeks I will post a report, but one of its helpful features is that it breaks down the separate aspects of consciousness which we conflate under one umbrella term.  Scientists have to do that to study consciousness properly.

I agree. Everything between sensory from external stimuli to deeply embedded memories sits as a different shade of consciousness.

Quote:
(02-16-2020, 05:21 PM)Free Wrote: I guess my point in a nutshell is that the decision was never made on a subconscious level, but rather it was made previously on a conscious level and then imprinted in memory, only to be recalled with what appears to be a reactionary response, but that reactionary response never made a decision, but only pushed forward the decision that was already consciously previously arrived at?

And yet, subconscious processing of information does occur.

But what involks it? We know that external stimuli involks memories, previous experiences, computations etc. Can this not be understood as the consciousness simply reaching into its filing cabinet and retrieving a file, and then applying the expected reaction according to previous experience?

Quote:Sensory information goes through all sorts of processing before it is presented to our awareness to pay attention to or not.  We also have certain reflexive, instinctive, and emotional responses which have little to do with our past conscious decision-making.  Even the direction of our attention itself is controlled subconsciously.

But again, if all of this is the result of previous conscious experience, then the processing, reflexive, instinctive, and emotional responses were already previously processed consciously, no? If so, then our reactions would merely be according to our memories which would mirror previous experience. 

If we consciously touched a hot stove at 5 years old and got burned, the memory of that would remain so that, because of that previous experience, we would know not to do it again. Why then would any further subconscious processing be necessary?
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(02-17-2020, 06:44 AM)DLJ Wrote: You are referring to Change Enablement methodology, (specifically the difference between a 'normal' change and a 'standard' change) and its interrelationship with Configuration Management / Asset Management methodology (which holds the baseline i.e. memory).

Flow diagrams available on request.

I think it's very interesting that you find so many parallels between management techniques and how the brain works, but you use terminlogy with which I am unfamilair.  Although flow diagrams might be helpful, I think what I really need to see are translations of your management terminology into the parallel concepts of brain science -- "Y is like X in that it does Z" or whatever.  That way I might be able to better translate both your contributions and your flow diagrams.

Or if that is too much to ask, then perhaps you could offer some basic definitions.  What is Change Enablement?  What are Configuration Management and Asset Management?  And so on.
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(02-17-2020, 07:48 PM)Free Wrote:
(02-17-2020, 11:16 AM)Alan V Wrote: And yet, subconscious processing of information does occur.

But what involks it? We know that external stimuli involks memories, previous experiences, computations etc. Can this not be understood as the consciousness simply reaching into its filing cabinet and retrieving a file, and then applying the expected reaction according to previous experience?

I believe I mentioned that the direction of our attention is often subconsciously controlled.  This is often reflexive, as when our attention is attracted to a loud sound, a bright light, or a new object.  However, our interests also direct our selective awareness, and they are a part of the workings of our prefrontal cortex.

(02-17-2020, 07:48 PM)Free Wrote:
Quote:Sensory information goes through all sorts of processing before it is presented to our awareness to pay attention to or not.  We also have certain reflexive, instinctive, and emotional responses which have little to do with our past conscious decision-making.  Even the direction of our attention itself is controlled subconsciously.

But again, if all of this is the result of previous conscious experience, then the processing, reflexive, instinctive, and emotional responses were already previously processed consciously, no? If so, then our reactions would merely be according to our memories which would mirror previous experience. 

If we consciously touched a hot stove at 5 years old and got burned, the memory of that would remain so that, because of that previous experience, we would know not to do it again. Why then would any further subconscious processing be necessary?

If I learn to ride a bike, I certainly have to pay extra attention while I am learning.  That is conscious effort.  But that procedural memory is transferred into my cerebellum, which is automatic or subconscious rather than conscious in its operation.  If we had to pay the same amount of attention each time we rode a bike as when we were first learning, we wouldn't be riding bikes regularly.  Some people with damage to their cerebellum actually have that problem.  Every movement has to be consciously considered and it is very difficult for them.

That's not to downplay the role consciousness plays in creating the episodic, semantic, and procedural memories we all depend on daily.  It is merely to say that what was conscious need not remain conscious in later iterations.  The speed of such routines shows they are no longer conscious.  The conscious can become unconscious just as the unconscious can become conscious again.  The two aspect of our brains work together, and are not cleanly divided as in some earlier theories.

In part, this is a somewhat arbitrary distinction and depends on the definition of what is and isn't consciousness in common usage among the scientists I have read.
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(02-17-2020, 08:18 PM)Alan V Wrote:
(02-17-2020, 07:48 PM)Free Wrote:
(02-17-2020, 11:16 AM)Alan V Wrote: And yet, subconscious processing of information does occur.

But what involks it? We know that external stimuli involks memories, previous experiences, computations etc. Can this not be understood as the consciousness simply reaching into its filing cabinet and retrieving a file, and then applying the expected reaction according to previous experience?

I believe I mentioned that the direction of our attention is often subconsciously controlled.  This is often reflexive, as when our attention is attracted to a loud sound, a bright light, or a new object.  However, our interests also direct our selective awareness, and they are a part of the workings of our prefrontal cortex.

(02-17-2020, 07:48 PM)Free Wrote:
Quote:Sensory information goes through all sorts of processing before it is presented to our awareness to pay attention to or not.  We also have certain reflexive, instinctive, and emotional responses which have little to do with our past conscious decision-making.  Even the direction of our attention itself is controlled subconsciously.

But again, if all of this is the result of previous conscious experience, then the processing, reflexive, instinctive, and emotional responses were already previously processed consciously, no? If so, then our reactions would merely be according to our memories which would mirror previous experience. 

If we consciously touched a hot stove at 5 years old and got burned, the memory of that would remain so that, because of that previous experience, we would know not to do it again. Why then would any further subconscious processing be necessary?

If I learn to ride a bike, I certainly have to pay extra attention while I am learning.  That is conscious effort.  But that procedural memory is transferred into my cerebellum, which is automatic or subconscious rather than conscious in its operation.  If we had to pay the same amount of attention each time we rode a bike as when we were first learning, we wouldn't be riding bikes regularly.  Some people with damage to their cerebellum actually have that problem.  Every movement has to be consciously considered and it is very difficult for them.

That's not to downplay the role consciousness plays in creating the episodic, semantic, and procedural memories we all depend on daily.  It is merely to say that what was conscious need not remain conscious in later iterations.  The speed of such routines shows they are no longer conscious.  The conscious can become unconscious just as the unconscious can become conscious again.  The two aspect of our brains work together, and are not cleanly divided as in some earlier theories.

In part, this is a somewhat arbitrary distinction and depends on the definition of what is and isn't consciousness in common usage among the scientists I have read.

I tend to see things this way;

1. External stimuli creates a memory, which some memories leaving more of a mark than others depending on the emotional impact.

2. With each memory that is created, also ingrained within it are all our conscious thoughts and processes regarding it.

3. When the memory is invoked, all previous thoughts and processes are invoked along with it, and it thereby becomes a reaction.

Is there actually any evidence that any "new" information is being created and subconsciously processed when memories are invoked?
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