“Starting from the radical idea that consciousness is something that the brain learns to do rather than a static property associated with some patterns of neural activity and not with others, I explore the links between theory of mind, self- awareness, and perceptual awareness. Considering first the link between self-awareness and perceptual awareness, I suggest, congruently with the Higher-Order Thought (HOT) Theory of consciousness developed by Rosenthal, that first- order representations are conscious if and only if they are targeted by appropriate higher-order representations, that is, metarepresentations. The main functions of such metarepresentations are (1) to redescribe the target first-order representations in such a way as to explicitly indicate mental attitude, and (2) to subserve prediction-driven control mechanisms. Crucially, (1) such metarepresentations do not need to be conscious themselves (as in HOT), and (2) they emerge over training and development as a result of unconscious learning and plasticity mechanisms Metarepresentations thus form the basis for self-awareness because they enable agents to “know that they know”, that is, to be acquainted with the geography of their own representational systems. I illustrate these arguments with implemented computational models (connectionist networks) applied to different experimental paradigms. Next, I turn to the link between self-awareness and theory of mind. The main argument here is that developing infants continuously attempt to predict not only the consequences of their actions on the world, but also the consequences of their actions on other agents. But there is a crucial difference between interactions with the world and interactions with other agents: Understanding the reactions of the latter, unlike the former, requires assuming the existence of hidden, unobservables states. Thus, when one learns to interact with other agents, one also forms mental models of the internal states of those other agents. But this is the same prediction-driven process as involved in forming metarepresentations of one own’s mental states. There is thus a direct link between theory of mind and self-awareness, a point that was forcefully argued by Carruthers. Hence we bridge the gap from theory of mind to perceptual awareness through the joint involvement of prediction-driven, learned interactive loops that make it possible for agents to better anticipate the consequences of their actions.”

prof. Axel Cleeremans

 

 

“Treść świadomości każdego z nas jest w pełni subiektywna, przez co nie jesteśmy w stanie obiektywnie stwierdzić czy druga osoba jest świadoma – możemy jedynie wnioskować o świadomości innych osób (lub jej braku) na podstawie ich możliwości przetwarzania bodźców z otoczenia (percepcji) i obserwacji ich reakcji (zachowania). Dlatego złożone zachowania, zarówno pojawiające się spontanicznie jak i w odpowiedzi na bodźce z otoczenia, wydają się nam intuicyjnie bardzo silnie powiązane ze stanem świadomości. Jednak świadomość w formie wewnętrznie generowanych snów lub halucynacji występuje także w stanach gdy percepcja i złożone zachowania nie są przejawiane, na przykład podczas snu REM lub narkozy z wykorzystaniem ketaminy. Ponadto, badania z wykorzystaniem technik neuro-obrazowania sugerują, że część pacjentów, którzy z powodu rozległych uszkodzeń mózgu prowadzących do braku możliwości komunikacji są diagnozowani jako znajdujący się w stanie wegetatywnym (apalicznym), może jednak zachowywać pewien poziom zdolności percepcyjnych i świadomości. W moim wystąpieniu postaram się przybliżyć badania dotyczące neuronalnego podłoża stanu świadomości, kładąc szczególny nacisk na możliwą dysocjację pomiędzy percepcją, zachowaniem, i świadomością.”

dr Michał Bola

 

“The study of conscious experience now involves researchers in psychology, philosophy, cognitive science, medicine, neuroscience, and other related fields.  Over the past 25 years the field has produced a massive amount of research and as a consequence we now know more about consciousness than ever before.  We also now know just how much we do not know about it, so there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to understand the function of consciousness and the mechanisms that underlie it.  Maybe some day we will also find a solution to the so-called hard problem of consciousness:  why does phenomenal character of experience or “what it is like” that characterizes our conscious experience exist at all?  This 9th edition of the Cracow Cognitive Science conference aims to contribute to the ongoing debate about conscious experience by gathering best research from young scholars and experienced researchers alike and thereby spreading the good news that consciousness may not be as mysterious and elusive of a phenomenon as we might have thought.”

dr Michał Klincewicz