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      Consciousness: individuated information in action


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          Within theoretical and empirical enquiries, many different meanings associated with consciousness have appeared, leaving the term itself quite vague. This makes formulating an abstract and unifying version of the concept of consciousness – the main aim of this article –into an urgent theoretical imperative. It is argued that consciousness, characterized as dually accessible (cognized from the inside and the outside), hierarchically referential (semantically ordered), bodily determined (embedded in the working structures of an organism or conscious system), and useful in action (pragmatically functional), is a graded rather than an all-or-none phenomenon. A gradational approach, however, despite its explanatory advantages, can lead to some counterintuitive consequences and theoretical problems. In most such conceptions consciousness is extended globally (attached to primitive organisms or artificial systems), but also locally (connected to certain lower-level neuronal and bodily processes). For example, according to information integration theory (as introduced recently by Tononi and Koch, 2014), even such simple artificial systems as photodiodes possess miniscule amounts of consciousness. The major challenge for this article, then, is to establish reasonable, empirically justified constraints on how extended the range of a graded consciousness could be. It is argued that conscious systems are limited globally by the ability to individuate information (where individuated information is understood as evolutionarily embedded, socially altered, and private), whereas local limitations should be determined on the basis of a hypothesis about the action-oriented nature of the processes that select states of consciousness. Using these constraints, an abstract concept of consciousness is arrived at, hopefully contributing to a more unified state of play within consciousness studies itself.

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          Conscious, preconscious, and subliminal processing: a testable taxonomy.

          Of the many brain events evoked by a visual stimulus, which are specifically associated with conscious perception, and which merely reflect non-conscious processing? Several recent neuroimaging studies have contrasted conscious and non-conscious visual processing, but their results appear inconsistent. Some support a correlation of conscious perception with early occipital events, others with late parieto-frontal activity. Here we attempt to make sense of these dissenting results. On the basis of the global neuronal workspace hypothesis, we propose a taxonomy that distinguishes between vigilance and access to conscious report, as well as between subliminal, preconscious and conscious processing. We suggest that these distinctions map onto different neural mechanisms, and that conscious perception is systematically associated with surges of parieto-frontal activity causing top-down amplification.
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            An information integration theory of consciousness

            Background Consciousness poses two main problems. The first is understanding the conditions that determine to what extent a system has conscious experience. For instance, why is our consciousness generated by certain parts of our brain, such as the thalamocortical system, and not by other parts, such as the cerebellum? And why are we conscious during wakefulness and much less so during dreamless sleep? The second problem is understanding the conditions that determine what kind of consciousness a system has. For example, why do specific parts of the brain contribute specific qualities to our conscious experience, such as vision and audition? Presentation of the hypothesis This paper presents a theory about what consciousness is and how it can be measured. According to the theory, consciousness corresponds to the capacity of a system to integrate information. This claim is motivated by two key phenomenological properties of consciousness: differentiation – the availability of a very large number of conscious experiences; and integration – the unity of each such experience. The theory states that the quantity of consciousness available to a system can be measured as the Φ value of a complex of elements. Φ is the amount of causally effective information that can be integrated across the informational weakest link of a subset of elements. A complex is a subset of elements with Φ>0 that is not part of a subset of higher Φ. The theory also claims that the quality of consciousness is determined by the informational relationships among the elements of a complex, which are specified by the values of effective information among them. Finally, each particular conscious experience is specified by the value, at any given time, of the variables mediating informational interactions among the elements of a complex. Testing the hypothesis The information integration theory accounts, in a principled manner, for several neurobiological observations concerning consciousness. As shown here, these include the association of consciousness with certain neural systems rather than with others; the fact that neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious; the reduction of consciousness during dreamless sleep and generalized seizures; and the time requirements on neural interactions that support consciousness. Implications of the hypothesis The theory entails that consciousness is a fundamental quantity, that it is graded, that it is present in infants and animals, and that it should be possible to build conscious artifacts.
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              Consciousness as integrated information: a provisional manifesto.

              The integrated information theory (IIT) starts from phenomenology and makes use of thought experiments to claim that consciousness is integrated information. Specifically: (i) the quantity of consciousness corresponds to the amount of integrated information generated by a complex of elements; (ii) the quality of experience is specified by the set of informational relationships generated within that complex. Integrated information (Phi) is defined as the amount of information generated by a complex of elements, above and beyond the information generated by its parts. Qualia space (Q) is a space where each axis represents a possible state of the complex, each point is a probability distribution of its states, and arrows between points represent the informational relationships among its elements generated by causal mechanisms (connections). Together, the set of informational relationships within a complex constitute a shape in Q that completely and univocally specifies a particular experience. Several observations concerning the neural substrate of consciousness fall naturally into place within the IIT framework. Among them are the association of consciousness with certain neural systems rather than with others; the fact that neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious; the reduction of consciousness during dreamless sleep and generalized seizures; and the distinct role of different cortical architectures in affecting the quality of experience. Equating consciousness with integrated information carries several implications for our view of nature.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                29 July 2015
                : 6
                : 1035
                [1]Institute of Sociology, Department of Management, University of Bielsko-Biała Bielsko-Biała, Poland
                Author notes

                Edited by: Adam B. Barrett, University of Sussex, UK

                Reviewed by: Lucie Charles, CEA Saclay, France; Igor Aleksander, Imperial College London, UK

                *Correspondence: Jakub Jonkisz, Institute of Sociology, Department of Management, University of Bielsko-Biała, Willowa 2, 43-309 Bielsko-Biala, Slanskie, Poland, kjonkisz@ 123456wp.pl

                This article was submitted to Consciousness Research, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2015 Jonkisz.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 28 April 2015
                : 07 July 2015
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 179, Pages: 17, Words: 0
                Funded by: National Science Centre of Poland
                Award ID: UMO-2013/11/B/HS1/03968
                Hypothesis and Theory

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                taxonomy of consciousness,graded consciousness,extended consciousness,sensorimotor consciousness,integrated information,individuated information,subjectivity


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