Workshops

Workshops will take place on Friday June 25. There will be one morning session of four workshops and one afternoon session of four workshops. Each workshop will last three hours. The cost of workshop attendance is 50 Euro per single workshop. Those who want to attend two workshops will have to pay only 90 Euro.

Morning workshops

The Unity of Consciousness

Tim Bayne
Department of Philosophy
Macquarie University
Consciousness is often said to be unified; indeed, consciousness is often said to be necessarily unified. Recently, however, theorist have challenged the claim that consciousness is unified. Some say that consciousness is not unified even in normal cognition; others say that although consciousness is normally unified this unity fail in various pathologies of consciousness such as commissurotomy, anosognosia, or unilateral neglect. This tutorial provides an overview of debates surrounding the unity of consciousness.

(1) First hour: What is the unity of consciousness?

There are many different conceptions of the unity of consciousness. Among the various unities of consciousness one needs to distinguish are: phenomenal unity, cognitive unity, functional unity, access unity and anatomical unity. We will examine each of these unities of consciousness, and explore the various ways in which they might be related. We will also examine the relationship between first-person and third-person perspectives on the unity of consciousness, and the relationship between the unity of consciousness and the self. This material will include a brief overview of various philosophical approaches to consciousness.

(2) Second hour: The unity of consciousness and theories of consciousness

Many theories of consciousness are atomistic: they focus on accounting for individual conscious states  such as the experience of hearing someone's face, having a conscious thought, feeling a pain, and so on. Prominent accounts of consciousness that appear to be atomistic include higher-order representation accounts, and certain neurophysiological accounts (such as Zeki's). Atomistic accounts face one form of the binding problem: how are these various phenomenal states bound together to form entire phenomenal fields? Other accounts of consciousness are holistic: they attempt to account for the entire phenomenal field as whole. Such theories seem to accord better with the first-person perspective on consciousness, but it is arguable that they are empirically implausible. We will examine a range of atomistic and holistic accounts, and then tackle the question of which approach is more plausible.

(3) Third hour: The unity of consciousness and pathologies of consciousness.

In the final part of this workshop we will examine various pathologies of consciousness and various interpretations of them. Of central interest here is the split-brain (commissurotomy) syndrome. We will examine a range of interpretations of the structure of the split-brain consciousness, paying particular attention to Hurley's dynamic account of the split-brain, and the idea that the structure of consciousness might depend on attention and/or intention. If time permits we will also examine other pathologies of consciousness.


On the plausibility of unconscious perception

Daniel Holender
Laboratoire de Psychologie Expérimentale
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Profile: http://www.ulb.ac.be/rech/inventaire/chercheurs/3/CH873.html
 
Assessing the plausibility of unconscious perception requires to go beyond the usual discussions on the methods of investigation and on the validity and replicability of the available data. In the first place, one should assess in what sense perception could be unconscious. A related issue is whether the notion of activation currently used in modeling priming and congruity effects has any explanatory value at all. The discussion on these points will be cast in the framework of Searle's analysis of the relation between conscious and unconscious intentionality. Next, I shall evaluate the major methodological approaches and the associated data. This analysis will be based on several distinctions which, although often overlooked, are crucial to evaluate the plausibility of the phenomenon. One such distinction is that between unconscious priming effects and unconscious congruency effects. Another distinction is that between effects based on the identity and effects based on the meaning of unconscious stimuli. With respect to stimulus meaning, a further important distinction is that between stimulus denotation (i.e., predominantly stored information) and stimulus connotation (i.e., predominantly derivable information). I shall conclude this tutorial by arguing for the need to find non-intentional interpretations for the non-trivial results.


Non-Sensory Experience

Bruce Mangan
Institute for Cognitive and Brain Studies
University of California
Berkeley
mangan@cogsci.berkeley.edu

From the early days of the cognitive revolution researchers have noted, generally in passing, a peculiar phenomenological state in their subjects. During experiments, subjects would sometimes report that their cognitive activity seemed to be mediated by experiences which had no discernible sensory content. At one point Weiscrantz called these feelings "non-sensory experiences," and terms like "gut feelings," "hunches," and "just knowing" have been applied to similar phenomena.

Many areas of contemporary cognitive research have encountered non-sensory experiences in one form or another. These include implicit learning, metacognition, blindsight and various cognitive deficits, Gestalt aspects of perception, pre-attentive processing, problem solving, aesthetics, semantic satiation, intuition, and emotion.

This workshop will review a number of findings from these areas which help to establish the occurrence and wide-ranging presence of non-sensory experiences in consciousness. We will also consider various hypotheses about the cognitive function(s) of non-sensory experiences, both in relation to sensory experiences and to unconscious processes.

Non-sensory phenomenology will receive a good deal of attention, with examples drawn from many sources including "introspective" psychology. We will also briefly review the treatment of non-sensory experiences in traditional Western philosophy. However, in the workshop, these areas will be considered only to the degree that they help support, clarify or extend the empirical investigation of non-sensory experiences. For example, the historical material provides strong evidence against the view that non-sensory experiences are experimental artifacts, or that the domain of non-sensory experiences is restricted to abnormal or pathological states.


From presence towards consciousness

Mel Slater
Computer Science Department, University College London
http://www.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/m.slater/
&
Maria V. Sanchez-Vives
Instituto de Neurociencias, Univ. Miguel Hernandez-CSIC, San Juan de Alicante, Spain
http://www.umh.es/profesores/fichaprofesor.asp?NP=7563

Additional Speaker:
Dr Wijnand IJsselsteijn
http://www.ijsselsteijn.nl/

The objective of this workshop is to introduce 'presence research' to those interested and involved in the study of consciousness. Presence research originated with the attempt to understand and exploit the feeling of being and acting at a remote location in the context of teleoperator systems, and has been extended to the understanding of the processes involved in being in the place represented in a virtual reality. Presence has become a multidisciplinary area of research including computer science, psychology, neuroscience, and others. What characteristics of a virtual environment are crucial to generate a sense of being and acting within these virtual places? Which are the important elements in a particular stimulus (a book, a movie, etc) that make us feel immersed in a reality that is distinct from the one where we are physically present? How are computer produced virtual sensory stimuli integrated within the human perceptual system to generate an artificial sense of reality? We want to introduce here the idea that the study of presence gives us a useful tool for the study of consciousness. Technically, it provides us with a (virtual) reality that can be manipulated to explore situations in a way that is impossible in the real world. Conceptually, it restricts the study of consciousness to a limited setting, giving us a more constrained frame of reference. This approach also provides an adequate scope within which to explore the neurological basis of consciousness.

A multidisciplinary approach in presence research may consequently open another window for the study of consciousness. This tutorial will provide an overview of the field, and also go in depth into specific topics

Afternoon workshops


Teaching Consciousness

Susan Blackmore
http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/

Many participants at ASSC8 already teach consciousness courses to undergraduate or graduate students. Others may be considering doing so. This workshop provides a chance to try out some novel demonstrations and to discuss teaching methods.
I have taught a third-year undergraduate course on the Psychology of Consciousness for over ten years and during that time have developed many methods for explaining difficult ideas, and class activities to bring abstract arguments to life. In this workshop I shall enlist the participants as students (and critics) to try out some of the activities.

The first half is mainly philosophical exercises, such as a re-enactment of "Mary the colour scientist", an exercise in defining consciousness, and the teletransporter thought experiment. After a break, the second half focuses on scientific exercises, including Libet's experiment on spontaneous deliberate action, the cutaneous rabbit, and the Imitation Game. These, and many other activities, are described in Consciousness: An Introduction (2003).

While being fun to do, these exercises are time-consuming and some lecturers may think that they waste of time or trivialise the subject. Trying them out will enable us to evaluate this. I will also describe the exercises that I give students to practice at home, and some of the ethical issues that arise when students' deepest beliefs are challenged. I hope that the workshop will be fun, as well as providing a chance for us to share expertise on the teaching of consciousness studies.


Action in Perception: the Enactive Approach to Perceptual Consciousness

Alva Noë, UC Berkeley
http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~noe
 
In the last couple of years a new approach to perception and perceptual consciousness has emerged. This approach is known, variously, as the sensorimotor, the dynamic-sensorimotor, or the enactive approach. According to this approach, perception is, in effect, a kind of sensorimotor skill. The basic ideas of the theory of are laid out in O'Regan and Noe 2001, but also in a series of subsequent papers (see below) and in Noe's ACTION IN PERCEPTION (in press, The MIT Press). The theory has attracted some attention, and has managed to engage the interest of neuroscientists and psychologists as well as philosophers and theorists of art. The aim of this tutorial is to present the theory and illustrate its approach to a range of phenomena including the nature of sensory modalities, sensory substitution, neural plasticity, the neural correlates of consciousness research program, consciousness and the explanatory gap.

Short bibliography:
Block, N. Tactile sensation via spatial perception, Trends in Cognitive Science 7/7, 2003;
Gray, J. How are qualia coupled to functions, Trends in Cognitive Science 7/5, 2003;
Hurley, S. and A. Noe, Neural plasticity and consciousness, Biology and Philosophy 18:131-168 [2003];
Hurley, S. and A. Noë, Neural plasticity and consciousness: reply to Block, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7/8, 2003.
Noë, A. Is the visual world a grand illusion? Journal of Consciousness Studies Volume 9, No 5/6, 2002;
Noe, A. Action In Perception. The MIT Press, in press.
Noë, A. and S. Hurley, The deferential brain in action: reply to Jeffrey Gray, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7/5, 2003;
Noe, A. and E. Thompson, Are there neural correlates of consciousness?, in press.
O'Regan, J.K. and A. Noë, A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24/5, 2001.


Synaesthesia

Noam Sagiv
Department of Psychology,
University College London
http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~noam/
 
The study of individuals with various cognitive deficits has taught us a great deal, however, there is much to be learned from positive phenomena such as synaesthesia. Narrowly defined, synaesthesia is a condition in which stimulation in one sensory modality leads to additional experiences in a different modality. Nevertheless, inducers of synaesthesia may be more abstract or internally generated and the evoked experiences may span a wide range of qualities. Consequently, synesthesia has implications for every major aspect of cognition: perception, attention, language, memory, emotion, and consciousness. In turn, in order to understand synaesthesia, one has to consider these aspects as well as their development and neural basis.

In this tutorial, I will provide an overview of what is known about synaesthesia. I will begin by reviewing the varieties of synaesthetic experience and consider some foundational issues, such as a definition and criteria for synesthesia as well as different views of synaesthesia (is it an abnormality or a normal mode of cognition rarely made explicit?). A brief historic review of synaesthesia research will follow.
In the second hour, I will discuss cognitive and developmental approaches to synesthesia. The basic paradigms used in synesthesia research will be reviewed, as well as how they were applied in order to demonstrate the perceptual reality of synesthesia, the role of attention and context, as well as synaesthesia without awareness. This will be followed by discussion of common trends among and individual differences between synaesthetes. Next, I will discuss the questions of synaesthesia and metaphor, synaesthesia and language, followed by a debate on neonatal synaesthesia.

The third hour will be dedicated to the neural basis of synaesthesia, how brain-imaging findings constrain models of synaesthesia, and implications for the problem of qualia. The tutorial will end with a discussion of open questions concerning synaesthesia.


Dolphin Consciousness: Methods of Measure and Measures of Method

Sara Waller, Ph.D.
Philosophy Department
California State University, Dominguez Hills
http://www.csudh.edu/philosophy/waller/pages/
 
This tutorial presentation will survey current methods for measuring the consciousness and cognition of cetaceans generally, with a focus on dolphin research. Results from several studies will be presented and their implications will be discussed. (Including research by Tyack, Rhees, Pryor, Herman) Video will show wild dolphin behavior recorded in the spring of 2001 and will be paired with a participatory mock data-taking activity. Discussion will revolve around potential problems in the sampling of data for hypotheses regarding dolphin cognition, and possible solutions. After the presentation of empirical methods, there will be an overview of current philosophical questions regarding consciousness and cognition as they pertain to empirical measures of animal minds. Prerequisites for language capability, and the relation of language to cognition and thought will be discussed. Classical and contemporary philosophical views of animal minds (Including Descartes, Kant, Radner, Singer, Dennett, Hauser, Griffin, Bermudez) will be surveyed, with an eye toward the strengths and limits of psychometrics (Thorndike, Savage-Rumbaugh, Herman, Tyack, etc.). General questions in the philosophy of science will be applied to the specific case of consciousness in cetacean research. The goal of this tutorial is to acquaint participants with common methods for measuring cognition in captive and wild dolphins, and address the potential of these methods with a philosophical eye.