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      On the generation and function of conscious sequence knowledge

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          Abstract

          Es besteht weitgehend Einigkeit darüber, dass inzidentelles Lernen bewusstes Wissen über eine sequenziell strukturierte Regelhaftigkeit erzeugen kann, auch wenn die zu Grunde liegenden Lernprozesse nur ungenügend verstanden sind. Ob jedoch Sequenzlernen auch „implizit“ oder unbewusst erfolgen kann, ist umstritten. Fortschritte in diese Frage sind von Untersuchungen zu bewusstem und unbewusstem Lernen zu erwarten, die vor dem Hintergrund übergreifender Bewusstseinstheorien erfolgen. Rünger und Frensch (2008a) zeigen, wie „bewusstes Sequenzwissen“ in Rückgriff auf die „global workspace“-Theorie des Bewusstseins definiert und operationalisiert werden kann. Im Rahmen dieser Theorie wird „inferenzielle Promiskuität“ als zentrales funktionales Merkmal bewusster mentaler Repräsentationen betrachtet. Rünger und Frensch (2008b) überprüfen eine zentrale Vorhersage der „unexpected event“-Hypothese, einer Theorie zur Entstehung bewussten Wissens in inzidentellen Lernsituationen. In einer Serie von Experimenten wurden unerwartete Ereignisse durch Unterbrechungen des inzidentellen Lernprozesses experimentell induziert. In Übereinstimmung mit der „unexpected event“-Hypothese fanden die Autoren, dass sich die Verfügbarkeit bewussten Sequenzwissens erhöhte. Rünger, Nagy und Frensch (in Druck) untersuchen schließlich die Funktion bewussten Sequenzwissens im Kontext eines Rekognitionstests. Die empirischen Befunde deuten darauf hin, dass bewusstes Sequenzwissen die epistemische Grundlage für rationale Urteile im Gegensatz zu intuitiven oder heuristischen Urteilen darstellt.

          Abstract

          There is a general consensus that incidental learning can produce conscious knowledge about a hidden sequential regularity, even though the underlying learning mechanisms are still poorly understood. By contrast, whether sequence learning can also be “implicit” or nonconscious is a matter of intense debate. Progress can be achieved by grounding research on conscious and nonconscious learning in larger theoretical frameworks of consciousness. Rünger and Frensch (2008a) show how “conscious sequence knowledge” can be defined and operationalized in reference to global workspace theory of consciousness that depicts “inferential promiscuity” as the functional hallmark of conscious mental representations. Rünger and Frensch (2008b) test a central prediction of the unexpected-event hypothesis — a theoretical account of the generation of conscious knowledge in incidental learning situations. In a series of experiments, unexpected events were induced experimentally by disrupting the incidental learning process. In line with the unexpected-event hypothesis, the authors observed an increased availability of conscious sequence knowledge. Finally, Rünger, Nagy, and Frensch (in press) explore the function of conscious sequence knowledge in the context of a sequence recognition test. The empirical results suggest that conscious sequence knowledge provides the epistemic basis for reasoned — as opposed to intuitive or heuristic — judgments.

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              Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: basic evidence and a workspace framework.

               S Dehaene (2001)
              This introductory chapter attempts to clarify the philosophical, empirical, and theoretical bases on which a cognitive neuroscience approach to consciousness can be founded. We isolate three major empirical observations that any theory of consciousness should incorporate, namely (1) a considerable amount of processing is possible without consciousness, (2) attention is a prerequisite of consciousness, and (3) consciousness is required for some specific cognitive tasks, including those that require durable information maintenance, novel combinations of operations, or the spontaneous generation of intentional behavior. We then propose a theoretical framework that synthesizes those facts: the hypothesis of a global neuronal workspace. This framework postulates that, at any given time, many modular cerebral networks are active in parallel and process information in an unconscious manner. An information becomes conscious, however, if the neural population that represents it is mobilized by top-down attentional amplification into a brain-scale state of coherent activity that involves many neurons distributed throughout the brain. The long-distance connectivity of these 'workspace neurons' can, when they are active for a minimal duration, make the information available to a variety of processes including perceptual categorization, long-term memorization, evaluation, and intentional action. We postulate that this global availability of information through the workspace is what we subjectively experience as a conscious state. A complete theory of consciousness should explain why some cognitive and cerebral representations can be permanently or temporarily inaccessible to consciousness, what is the range of possible conscious contents, how they map onto specific cerebral circuits, and whether a generic neuronal mechanism underlies all of them. We confront the workspace model with those issues and identify novel experimental predictions. Neurophysiological, anatomical, and brain-imaging data strongly argue for a major role of prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, and the areas that connect to them, in creating the postulated brain-scale workspace.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät II, Humboldt-Universität (kvv )
                12 December 2008
                oai:HUBerlin.de:29416

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