ASSC 19 Tutorials


One of the aims of this meeting is to allow researchers to gain a background in areas that they may know little about. Towards that end a number of tutorials are planned. Some participants in the conference may be interested in learning about technical matters such as EEG or other important brain imaging techniques. Others might enjoy a seminar on a philosophical topic, or a tutorial on relevant matters in cognitive psychology. Tutorial presenters are expected not to present just only their own material, but to give a broader tutorial overview and encourage discussion and debate.

Tutorials will be held in parallel sessions on the morning and afternoon of 7 July 2015. Each tutorial is intended to last approximately three hours. The size of the tutorial audiences will vary between a minimum of 10 to a maximum of around 60 attendees. The cost of attending a tutorial is 50 euros. Tutorials that do not achieve the minimum enrolment of 10 people may not be offered.


M1: A primer on experimental hypnosis research - Devin B. Terhune
M2: Novel diagnostic and therapeutical advances in disorders of consciousness - Jacobo D. Stitt
M3: Phenomenal concepts and the phenomenal concept strategy - Pär Sundström
M4: Neural processing of peripersonal space as a fundamental mechanism of self-consciousness - Olafe Blanke & Andrea Serino


A1: The metacognitive approach to studying consciousness: promises and caveats - Hakwan Lau
A2: Using Bayes to interpret non-significant results - Zoltan Dienes
A3: The body in the mind: recent advances in interoception and consciousness - Sarah N. Garfinkel
A4: Non-sensory phenomenology - Uriah Kriegel 



M1 "A primer on experimental hypnosis research"

  • Devin B. Terhune (Ph.D., Department of Experimental Psychology University of Oxford)

The study of hypnosis can provide valuable information regarding the nature of consciousness. Investigating responses to hypnotic suggestions in highly suggestible individuals can yield numerous insights into agency, cognitive control, and conscious awareness. Hypnosis can also be used in an instrumental manner to systematically induce, disrupt, or otherwise alter a host of processes related to consciousness. In turn, hypnosis can aid us in investigating different phenomena that are otherwise difficult to experimentally manipulate in a laboratory setting. The central aim of this tutorial is to give a broad introduction to experimental hypnosis research. First, we will first provide a brief history of hypnosis and introduce the instruments and procedures used by hypnosis researchers. We will devote considerable time to the measurement of hypnotic suggestibility and discuss the developmental and genetic determinants of hypnotic suggestibility and assess evidence for its cognitive and personality correlates. Next, we will describe and weigh the evidence for different theories of hypnosis and review research bearing on the cognitive and neural basis of hypnotic responding. Finally, we will conclude by outlining the use of hypnosis as an experimental technique for studying consciousness and describe how it can be utilized to investigate different research questions. In particular, we will discuss the use of hypnosis in the study of agency, attention, awareness, memory, and perception. This tutorial will provide attendees with a comprehensive understanding of current knowledge of hypnosis.

M2 "Novel diagnostic and therpeutical advances in disorders of consciousness" 

  • Jacobo D. Sitt (MD, PhD - Unicog Lab, NeuroSpin Centre, CEA/Saclay, Institute du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epiniere, Paris)

Advances in modern medicine have led to a new clinical, scientific and ethical challenge. Increasingly more patients survive catastrophic brain injuries, but remain in disordered consciousness conditions, such as the vegetative (VS) or minimally conscious state (MCS). Recent brain imaging and neurophysiological studies have enhanced our understanding of the incredible variability underlying these conditions,including patients who are deemed to be in a VS, but show evidence of intact consciousness with functional neuroimaging. Here, neuroscientists face a unique challenge: how do we take knowledge of the rich body of scientific studies conducted with individual/small groups of patients, in order to create tools that are useful for all of them? In this tutorial, we will introduce the audience to Disorders of Consciousness, and explore the clinical, scientific and ethical challenges they present. We will explore the recent findings on brain network dysfunction underlying these conditions. We will then explore the latest advances in diagnostic tools that bypass potentially damaged motor output systems to detect conscious processing. Third, we will explore exciting new advances in the field of therapeutics for disorders of consciousness, including brain electrical stimulation (i.e., transcranial direct current stimulation). Lastly we will explore how these results generalize to other altered states of consciousness, such as sleep or anesthesia, and what this endeavor can teach us about consciousness in a broader sense. Ultimately, we will synergistically pull together these topics within the framework of the current neuroscientific theories of consciousness, and explore the lines of evidence they contribute towards consolidating societal understanding of awareness, or the lack thereof.



M3 "Phenonemal concepts and the phenomenal concept strategy"

  • Pär Sundström (Umeå University)

Phenomenal concepts are the concepts we employ when we think about our conscious states in the first person, as when I attend to a pain I currently undergo and think, “this feeling is unpleasant.” Such concepts have been the focus of much discussion in recent philosophy. Perhaps most saliently, they are a corner-stone of the widely pursued “phenomenal concept strategy” for defending physicalism (Loar 1990/1997; Papineau 2002). There is little agreement about how exactly phenomenal concepts should be understood, what the best version of the phenomenal concept strategy is, and what is distinctive of this strategy. This tutorial has the following aims: 

1. To introduce the problems that the phenomenal concept strategy is designed to solve. We will focus especially on the “explanatory gap” and distinguish different ways of understanding that gap. 

2. Distinguish a range of solutions to these problems, and locate the phenomenal concept strategy among them. Here we will especially focus on varieties of what Stoljar (2005) has called the “missing concept strategy” and how this differs from the phenomenal concept strategy. 

3. Discuss considerations for and against the phenomenal concept strategy and competing strategies for defending physicalism. 


In addition, the tutorial will discuss at least two issues concerning phenomenal concepts that do not directly pertain to the issue of physicalism. First, it will consider the idea that phenomenal concepts can help explain our first-personal access to conscious states. Second, it will discuss whether phenomenal concepts can only be acquired from experience, as is often but not always supposed (see for example Ball 2009). 


M4 : "Neural processing of peripersonal space as a fundamental mechanism of self-consciousness" 

  • Olafe Blanke (Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain-Mind Institute / Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) & Andrea Serino (Center for Neuroprosthetics, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) 

Consciousness includes the subjective experience of being a self. Self experience is grounded at the physicality of the body, as we normally perceive our Self as located within a body that we own (body ownership or self identification), which occupies a given location in space (self location) and which  faces  the  world  from  a  specific  perspective   (first  person  perspective).   These three components constitute Bodily Self Consciousness (BSC). In this tutorial, we will present current knowledge about the mechanisms underlying the neural representation  and  the  subjective  experience  of  BSC.  We  claim  that  BSC  arises  from  the integration of multisensory and motor signals related to the body and the space surrounding the body, i.e. the peripersonal space. We will review neurophysiological data showing how tactile, proprioceptive, visual, auditory and vestibular signals are integrated at level of single neurons in parietal, posterior-temporal and motor areas. We will present neuroimaging data showing how interoceptive  inputs  from  inside  the  body  are  also  integrated  with  exteroceptive  body-related signals. We will describe neuropsychological cases showing how brain damages affecting those multisensory-motor integration areas result in phenomenologically complex, but fully explainable, alteration  of BSC (e.g., out of body experience,  feeling of a presence).  We will show how it is possible to alter BSC in healthy participants by manipulating multisensory inputs in well-designed psychophysical experiments, using robotics and virtual reality. Our tutorial will be of interest and accessible to all ASSC members, with any expertise (e.g., psychology, philosophy, biology, medicine) interested in the neural mechanisms of self- consciousness.


A1 "The metacognitive approach to studying consciousness: promises and caveats"

  • Hakwan Lau  (UCLA Psychology Department)

There’s been a spate of interest in using metacognitive measures in perceptual studies, in both neuroscience and psychophysics. While understanding the mechanisms for metacognition may be interesting in its own right, many have also seen the potential of relating these findings to our understanding of perceptual awareness. As such, several recent studies directly addressing questions coming out from debates in this meeting have adopted what we can call the metacognitive approach. In this tutorial we introduce the basic concepts involved in this approach, reviewing conceptual issues, common criticisms and problems, as well as technical challenges in actual data analysis. Why is the approach perceived by some to be superior to other more traditional approaches? How do we choose between the different analytic measures and how do we interpret them? Throughout we assume a minimal background, but we also make sure experienced researchers can also benefit from discussion of more intricate technical problems seen in the literature. There will also be discussion of what recent findings in this area from various laboratories mean for current debates, including theoretical arguments from philosophy. 

A2 "Using Bayes to interpret non- significant results"

  • Zoltan Dienes (School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton)

This tutorial was run at ASSC 17 in San Diego. I am proposing to run a very similar one again as Bayes becomes increasingly recognized as a necessary inferential technique (just this year the Association for Psychological Science declared that results sections in any of their journals could be purely Bayesian with no significance testing). I will incorporate the latest thinking on the material (it is an area of rapid development). 

The purpose of the tutorial is to present simple tools for dealing with non-significant results. In particular, people will be taught how to apply Bayes Factors to draw meaningful inferences from non-significant data, using free easy-to-use on-line software: Software which allows one to determine whether there is strong evidence for the null and against one’s theory, or if the data are just insensitive, a distinction p_values cannot make. These tools have greater flexibility than power calculations and allow null results to be interpreted over a wider range of situations.   Such tools should allow the publication of null results to become easier. 

While the tools will be of interest to all scientists, they are especially relevant to researchers interested in the conscious/unconscious distinction, because inferring a mental state is unconscious often rests on affirming a null result. For example, for perception to be below an objective threshold, discrimination about stimulus properties must be at chance. Similarly, for perception to be below a subjective threshold by the zero correlation criterion, ability to discriminate one’s own accuracy must be at chance with a meta-d’ etc.  To interpret a non-significant result, what is needed is a non-arbitrary specification of the  distribution of discrimination abilities given conscious knowledge. Conventional statistics cannot solve this problem, but Bayes Factors provide an easy simple solution. The solution is vital for progress in the field, as so many conclusions of unconscious mental states rely on null results with no indication of whether the non-significant result is purely due to data insensitivity. 


A3 : "The body in the mind: recent advances in interoception and consciousness"

  • Sarah N. Garfinkel (Department of Psychiatry, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex)

Interoception is the body-to-brain axis of sensation concerning the state of the internal body and its visceral organs. Interoceptive ability has implications for a variety of conscious experiences. For example, interoception can shape our experience of emotions as individuals more attuned to bodily responses experience emotions with heightened intensity. Renewed interest in interoception parallels a growing appreciation that cognition is also embodied, and that cognitive and emotional processes are biased/altered by bodily changes. Correspondingly, neuroscientists, psychologists and physiologists are currently focusing efforts on characterizing how and when internal bodily signals might guide cognition, with recent work demonstrating that enhanced interoceptive accuracy can improve memory and decision making. This tutorial will summarize key recent findings linking interoception to cognition and emotion and discuss further ways individual differences in interoception may influence a range processes pertaining to consciousness.

Despite this historic and recent interest in interoception, the literature to date remains inconsistent in the methods used to assess interoceptive ability. Previously, the terms ‘interoceptive awareness’ and ‘interoceptive sensitivity’ have been treated as synonymous and interchangeable, without deep consideration as to whether the mode of evaluation indeed assessed objective interoceptive accuracy (e.g. behavioural testing such as performance on heartbeat perception tests), metacognitive awareness (e.g. confidence-accuracy correspondence) or subjective interoceptive sensibility (e.g. as assessed via self-report questionnaires). This tutorial will discuss and critically evaluate the different approaches to interoception to better inform future research aimed at delineating effects on cognition, emotion and consciousness.  



A4 : "Non-sensory phenomenology"

  • Uriah Kriegel (Institut Jean Nicod)           

Early discussions of phenomenal consciousness have concentrated the questions of physicalist reductions and reductive explanation, and accordingly focused on manifest, uncontroversial kinds of conscious experience, in particular the phenomenology of pain and color perception. As debates over reduction have entered a phase of stalemate, recent work on phenomenal consciousness has featured an orthogonal interest in the kinds and variety of phenomenology in our stream of consciousness. Accordingly, a number of interrelated debates have emerged on the existence and character of controversial types of phenomenology. Perhaps the best-­‐known is the debate over the existence of a sui generis, irreducible cognitive phenomenology – a phenomenology proper to thought. Another concerns the existence of a sui generis phenomenology of agency. Such debates bring up a more general question: how many types of sui generis, irreducible phenomenology do we have to posit to just be able to correctly describe the stream of consciousness? This workshop will introduce participants to these newer debates in the philosophy of consciousness: after presenting a general framework for systematic treatment of the relevant issues, it will focus in turns on the debates over cognitive phenomenology, agentive phenomenology, and emotional phenomenology. In each case, a complete taxonomy of positions in the extant literature will be offered, reflecting the logical geography of the debate; two main positioned will then be identified and developed slightly more fully; the central arguments for each of these two positions will be laid out; and the most prominent objections to each will be presented.