Monday, July 2, 2012

Presidential Address: Lamme

Monday, July 2 2012 18:30-19:30 @ Dome Theatre

Presidential Address: "You have conscious sensations without knowing it"

Victor Lamme (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)


Consciousness has always been defined from introspective and behavioral intuitions. This has gotten us nowhere. What we need is a radical redefinition of what consciousness really is, from a convergence of introspective, behavioral and neural arguments. The criterion for success should be whether such a new definition explains what there is to explain about consciousness, not whether it fits our intuitive notions. From such an approach (Lamme, 2006; 2010), it emerges that it makes sense to acknowledge that we have conscious sensations (in the phenomenal, qualitative sense) without attention, without access, and hence also without thought. In this talk, I will present further arguments that impose such a far reaching conclusion.

Our latest experiments show that vision without attention is rich, detailed, precise, integrated, and - most importantly – shows perceptual inference i.e. goes beyond the retinal image towards a perceptual interpretation of that image. Moreover, we show a further dissociation between various forms of cognition (categorization, control) and consciousness, while the association between integration-segregation and conscious experience is strengthened.

In sum, there is now overwhelming evidence showing that neural representations outside the focus of attention, and outside the realm of access or thought possess all the key properties of conscious representations, except – of course – reportability. Moreover, these properties do all the explaining towards the phenomenal nature of conscious experience. The absence of access does little to explain that away. The proper conclusion is that we may have conscious sensations even when we don’t know it.

Lamme, V.A.F. (2006) Towards a true neural stance on consciousness. Trends Cogn Sci, 10: 494-501; Lamme, V.A.F. (2010) How neuroscience will change our view on consciousness. Cognitive Neuroscience, 1, 204-235

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