Volition and the Function of Consciousness

Document Type: 
Book Chapter
Article Type: 
Neural Correlates of Consciousness
Deposited by: 
Dr Hakwan Lau
Date of Issue: 
Hakwan Lau
Title of Book: 
Cognitive Neurosciences IV, Ed.
Number of Pages: 
MIT Press
Place of Publication: 
New York, USA
What are the psychological functions that could only be performed consciously? People have intuitively assumed that many acts of volition are not influenced by unconscious information. These acts range from simple examples such as making a spontaneous motor movement, to higher cognitive control. However, the available evidence suggests that under suitable conditions, unconscious information can influence these behaviors and the underlying neural mechanisms. One possibility is that stimuli that are consciously perceived tend to yield strong signals in the brain, which makes us think that consciousness has the function of such strong signals. However, if we could create conditions where the stimuli could yield strong signals but not the conscious experience of perception, perhaps we would find that such stimuli are just as effective in influencing volitional behavior. Future studies that focus on clarifying this issue may tell us what the defining functions of consciousness are.
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