Mentalizing refers to our ability to read the mental states of other agents and engages many neural processes. The brain's mirror system allows us to share the emotions of others. Through perspective taking, we can infer what a person currently believes about the world given their point of view. Finally, the human brain has the unique ability to represent the mental states of the self and the other and the relationship between these mental states, making possible the communication of ideas.
What is the role of language in social interaction? What does language bring to social encounters? We argue that language can be conceived of as a tool for interacting minds, enabling especially effective and flexible forms of social coordination, perspective-taking and joint action. In a review of evidence from a broad range of disciplines, we pursue elaborations of the language-as-a-tool metaphor, exploring four ways in which language is employed in facilitation of social interaction. We argue that language dramatically extends the (...) possibility-space for interaction, facilitates the profiling and navigation of joint attentional scenes, enables the sharing of situation models and action plans, and mediates the cultural shaping of interacting minds. (shrink)
A step towards a theory of consciousness would be to characterise the effect of consciousness on information processing. One set of results suggests that the effect of consciousness is to interfere with computations that are optimally performed non-consciously. Another set of results suggests that conscious, system 2 processing is the home of norm-compliant computation. This is contrasted with system 1 processing, thought to be typically unconscious, which operates with useful but error-prone heuristics. -/- These results can be reconciled by separating (...) out two different distinctions: between conscious and non-conscious representations, on the one hand, and between automatic and deliberate processes, on the other. This pair of distinctions is used to illuminate some existing experimental results and to resolve the puzzle about whether consciousness helps or hinders accurate information processing. This way of resolving the puzzle shows the importance of another category, which we label ‘type 0 cognition’, characterised by automatic computational processes operating on non-conscious representations. (shrink)
Humans have been shown capable of performing many cognitive tasks using information of which they are not consciously aware. This raises questions about what role consciousness actually plays in cognition. Here, we explored whether participants can learn cue-target contingencies in an attentional learning task when the cues were presented below the level of conscious awareness, and how this differs from learning about conscious cues. Participants’ manual (Experiment 1) and saccadic (Experiment 2) response speeds were influenced by both conscious and unconscious (...) cues. However, participants were only able to adapt to reversals of the cue-target contingencies (Experiment 1) or changes in the reliability of the cues (Experiment 2) when consciously aware of the cues. Therefore, although visual cues can be processed unconsciously, learning about cues over a few trials requires conscious awareness of them. Finally, we discuss implications for cognitive theories of consciousness. (shrink)
In a range of contexts, individuals arrive at collective decisions by sharing confidence in their judgements. This tendency to evaluate the reliability of information by the confidence with which it is expressed has been termed the ‘confidence heuristic’. We tested two ways of implementing the confidence heuristic in the context of a collective perceptual decision-making task: either directly, by opting for the judgement made with higher confidence, or indirectly, by opting for the faster judgement, exploiting an inverse correlation between confidence (...) and reaction time. We found that the success of these heuristics depends on how similar individuals are in terms of the reliability of their judgements and, more importantly, that for dissimilar individuals such heuristics are dramatically inferior to interaction. Interaction allows individuals to alleviate, but not fully resolve, differences in the reliability of their judgements. We discuss the implications of these findings for models of confidence and collective decision-making. (shrink)
There is certainly a need for a framework to guide the study of the physiological mechanisms underlying the experience of music and the emotions that music evokes. However, this framework should be organised hierarchically, with musical anticipation as its fundamental mechanism.
In this paper we examine the functional anatomy of volition, as revealed by modern brain imaging techniques, in conjunction with neuropsychological data derived from human and non-human primates using other methodologies. A number of brain regions contribute to the performance of consciously chosen, or ‘willed', actions. Of particular importance is dorsolateral prefrontal cortex , together with those brain regions with which it is connected, via cortico-subcortical and cortico-cortical circuits. That aspect of free will which is concerned with the voluntary selection (...) of one action rather than another critically depends upon the normal functioning of DLPFC and associated brain regions. Disease, or dysfunction, of these circuits may be associated with a variety of disorders of volition: Parkinson's disease, ‘utilization’ behaviour, ‘alien’ and ‘phantom’ limbs, and delusions of ‘alien control’ . Brain imaging has allowed us to gain some access to the pathophysiology of these conditions in living patients. At a philosophical level, the distinction between ‘intentions to act', and ‘intentions in action’ may prove particularly helpful when addressing these complex disturbances of human cognition and conscious experience. The exercise and experience of free will depends upon neural mechanisms located in prefrontal cortex and associated brain systems. (shrink)
In this chapter we examine the role of synaesthesia research within the broader context of the science of the mind and in particular the scientific study of consciousness. We argue that synaesthesia could be used as a model problem for the scientific study of consciousness, offering a novel perspective on perception, awareness and even social cognition. We highlight some of the lessons we have learnt from studying synaesthesia and areas in which we see synaesthesia research generating further insights into understanding (...) consciousness in the future. These include: Individual differences in conscious experience, the neural correlates of consciousness, how we construct the perceived world, and the development of consciousness. (shrink)
In order to identify the neural correlates of consciousness it is necessary to distinguish these from the neural correlates associated with unconscious information processing. We describe the various techniques, such as masking, which can be used to generate conditions in which the same stimulus is presented either just above or just below a threshold for visibility. Directed attention can also be used to manipulate the extent to which a stimulus gains access to awareness, as can various methods for creating bi‐stable (...) perception. A major problem for these studies is the possible confound of the need for participants to report their awareness and there is currently much interest in developing paradigms in which reporting awareness is not required. We also discuss studies exploring the neural correlates of imagination, illusions and hallucinations in which a perceptual experience occurs in the absence of a physical stimulus. Finally we consider techniques that go beyond correlation and attempt to identify the necessary and sufficient neural processes leading to conscious experience. (shrink)
Defending first-person introspective access to own mental states, we argue against Carruthers' claim of mindreading being prior to meta-cognition and for a fundamental difference between how we understand our own and others' mental states. We conclude that a model based on one mechanism but involving two different kinds of access for self and other is sufficient and more consistent with the evidence.
The attempt to develop a systematic approach to the study of consciousness begins with René Descartes (1596–1650) and his ideas still have a major influence today. He is best known for the sharp distinction he made between the physical and the mental (Cartesian dualism). According to Descartes, the body is one sort of substance and the mind another because each can be conceived in terms of totally distinct attributes. The body (matter) is characterized by spatial extension and motion, while the (...) mind is characterized by thought. This characterization of the mind also renders it private, a precursor of the distinction between the first‐person and the third‐person perspectives. Today, most scientists do not accept dualism, instead believing that mind somehow emerges from the physical properties of the brain. However, the distinction between mind and matter is still perceived as being so clear‐cut that explaining how mind can emerge from matter, and reconciling the first‐person and third‐person perspectives, remain the hardest problems facing the student of consciousness. (shrink)
The human mind is extraordinary in its ability not merely to respond to events as they unfold but also to adapt its own operation in pursuit of its agenda. This ‘cognitive control’ can be achieved through simple interactions among sensorimotor processes, and through interactions in which one sensorimotor process represents a property of another in an implicit, unconscious way. So why does the human mind also represent properties of cognitive processes in an explicit way, enabling us to think and say (...) ‘I’m sure’ or ‘I’m doubtful’? We suggest that ‘system 2 metacognition’ is for supra-personal cognitive control. It allows metacognitive information to be broadcast, and thereby to coordinate the sensorimotor systems of two or more agents involved in a shared task. (shrink)
The two leading cognitive accounts of consciousness currently available concern global workspace (a form of working memory) and metacognition. There is relatively little interaction between these two approaches and it has even been suggested that the two accounts are rival and separable alternatives. Here, we argue that the successful function of a global workspace critically requires that the broadcast representations include a metacognitive component.
Language learning is not primarily driven by a motivation to describe invariant features of the world, but rather by a strong force to be a part of the social group, which by definition is not invariant. It is not sufficient for language to be fit for the speaker's perceptual motor system. It must also be fit for social interactions.