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Why Brain-Machines Think They’re Conscious

Als Kalendereintrag speichern


Neuroscientists understand the basic principles of how the brain processes information. But how does it become subjectively aware of at least some of that information? What is consciousness? In my lab we are developing a theoretical and experimental approach to these questions that we call the Attention Schema theory (AST). The theory seeks to explain how an information-processing machine could act the way people do, insisting it has consciousness, describing consciousness in the ways that we do, and attributing similar properties to others. AST is a theory of how a machine insists it is more than a machine, even though it is not. The theory begins with attention, a mechanistic method of handling data. Some signals are enhanced at the expense of other signals and are more deeply processed. In the theory, the brain does more than just use attention. It also monitors attention. It constructs information – schematic information – about what attention is, what the consequences of attention are, and what its own attention is doing at any moment. Both descriptive and predictive, this “attention schema” is used to help control attention, much as the “body schema,” the brain’s internal model of the body, is used to help control the body. Based on the schematic information in this attention model, the brain concludes that it has a non-physical, subjective awareness. In AST, Awareness is a caricature of attention. Our data show that when you are not aware of item X, you can still attend to X, but your endogenous control over that attention is severely impared. Thus, awareness acts like the control model of attention. Our data also show that when we model the attention of others, we automatically model it in a schematic, magicalist way, as beams of mental energy emerging from people’s heads. Our deepest intuitions about consciousness as a hard problem, or a mystery essence, may stem from the brain’s sloppy models of attention.


Michael S. A. Graziano (Princeton University)

will be held online via Zoom. The link will be sent automatically to ScienceCampus and DPZ members. Other interested persons are asked to sent an email ( to receive the link.

Datum und Uhrzeit 22.10.20 - 15:00 - 16:15 Anmeldung nicht notwendig

Veranstaltungsort will be held online via zoom


Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition

Kontakt Dr. Christian Schloegl
Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition
German Primate Center
Kellnerweg 4
37077 Göttingen
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