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Better Than Conscious?Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications For Institutions$
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Christoph Engel and Wolf Singer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195805

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195805.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

Conscious and Nonconscious Processes

Conscious and Nonconscious Processes

Distinct Forms of Evidence Accumulation?

(p.21) 2 Conscious and Nonconscious Processes
Better Than Conscious?

Stanislas Dehaene

The MIT Press

Among the many brain events evoked by a visual stimulus, which ones are associated specifically with conscious perception, and which merely reflect nonconscious processing? Understanding the neuronal mechanisms of consciousness is a major challenge for cognitive neuroscience. Recently, progress has been achieved by contrasting behavior and brain activation in minimally different experimental conditions, one of which leads to conscious perception whereas the other does not. This chapter reviews briefly this line of research and speculates on its theoretical interpretation. I propose to draw links between evidence accumulation models, which are highly successful in capturing elementary psychophysical decisions, and the conscious/nonconscious dichotomy. In this framework, conscious access would correspond to the crossing of a threshold in evidence accumulation within a distributed “global workspace,” a set of recurrently connected neurons with long axons that is able to integrate and broadcast back evidence from multiple brain processors. During nonconscious processing, evidence would be accumulated locally within specialized subcircuits, but would fail to reach the threshold needed for global ignition and, therefore, conscious reportability.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, cognitive neuroscience, consciousness, evidence accumulation models, global workspace, intentional action, neuronal mechanisms of consciousness conscious perception, nonconscious decision making

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