Computational Correlates of Consciousness

Document Type: 
Book Chapter
Article Type: 
book_section
Disciplines: 
Psychology
Topics: 
Theory of Consciousness
Keywords: 
Computational theories of consciousness, neural correlates of consciousness, forward models
Date of Issue: 
2005
Authors: 
Axel Cleeremans
Refereed: 
Yes
Title of Book: 
The boundaries of consciousness: Neurobiology and Neuropathology
Series Name: 
Progress in Brain Research
Volume: 
444000
Issue Number: 
150
Page Range: 
81-98
Number of Pages: 
585
Publisher: 
Elsevier
Place of Publication: 
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
ISBN: 
444518517
Abstract: 
Over the past few years numerous proposals have appeared that attempt to characterize consciousness in terms of what could be called its computational correlates: Principles of information processing with which to characterize the differences between conscious and unconscious processing. Proposed computational correlates include architectural specialization (such as the involvement of specific regions of the brain in conscious processing), properties of representations (such as their stability in time or their strength), and properties of specific processes (such as resonance, synchrony, interactivity, or information integration). In exactly the same way that one can engage in a search for the neural correlates of consciousness, one can thus search for the computational correlates of consciousness. The most direct way of doing so consists of contrasting models of conscious vs. unconscious information processing. In this chapter, I review these developments and illustrate how computational modeling of specific cognitive processes can be useful in exploring and in formulating putative computational principles through which to capture the differences between conscious and unconscious cognition. What can be gained from such approaches to the problem of consciousness is an understanding of the function it plays in information processing and of the mechanisms that subtend it. Here, I suggest that the central function of consciousness is to make it possible for cognitive agents to exert flexible, adaptive control over behavior. From this perspective, consciousness is best characterized as involving (1) a graded continuum defined over quality of representation, such that as availability to consciousness and to cognitive control correlates with properties of representation, and (2) the implication of systems of meta-representations.
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