Oakley and Halligan suggest that our personal awareness does not create, cause or choose our beliefs, feelings or perceptions. Instead, the contents of consciousness are generated “behind the scenes” by fast, efficient, non-conscious systems in our brains. All this happens without any interference from our personal awareness, which sits passively in the passenger seat while these processes occur.
Put simply, we don’t consciously choose our thoughts or our feelings – we become aware of them.
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Oakley and Halligan’s thinking has been influenced by research into neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as more recent cognitive neuroscience studies using hypnosis. The studies using hypnosis show that a person’s mood, thoughts and perceptions can be profoundly alt...
All this may leave one wondering where our thoughts, emotions and perceptions actually come from. Oakley and Halligan argue that the contents of consciousness are a subset of the experiences, emotions, thoughts and beliefs that are generated by non-conscious processes wi...
Everyone knows what it feels like to have consciousness: it’s that self-evident sense of personal awareness, which gives us a feeling of ownership and control over the thoughts, emotions and experiences that we have every day.
Just because consciousness has been placed in the passenger seat, does not mean we need to dispense with important everyday notions such as free will and personal responsibility. In fact, they are embedded in the workings of our non-conscious brain systems. They have a powerful purpose in...
The personal narrative is important because it provides information to be stored in our autobiographical memory (the story we tell ourselves, about ourselves), and gives human beings a way of communicating the things we have perceived and experienced to others.
In response to this, Oakley and Halligan argue that free will and personal responsibility are notions that have been constructed by society. As such, they are built into the way we see and understand ourselves as individuals, and as a species. Because of this, they are
During hypnosis, similar areas of the brain are active during the involuntary and the suggested “alien” movement, while brain activity for the intentional action was different.
So, hypnotic suggestion can be seen as a means of communicati...
Oakley and Halligan’s conclusions also raise questions about the notions of free will and personal responsibility. If our personal awareness does not control the contents of the personal narrative which reflects our thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and decisions, the...
In such studies, participants go through a hypnosis induction procedure, to help them to enter a mentally focused and absorbed state. Then, suggestions are made to change their perceptions and experiences.
For example, in one study, researchers recorded the brain activity of participants
If this sounds strange, consider how effortlessly we regain consciousness each morning after losing it the night before; how thoughts and emotions – welcome or otherwise – arrive already formed in our minds; how the colours and shapes we see are constructed into meaningful objects or memorable fa...
Most experts think that consciousness can be divided into two parts: the experience of consciousness (or personal awareness), and the contents of consciousness, which include things such as thoughts, beliefs, sensations, perceptions, intentions, memorie...
It’s easy to assume that the contents of consciousness are somehow chosen, caused or controlled by our personal awareness – after all, thoughts don’t exist until until we think them. But in a research paper in Frontiers of Psychology, professors David A. Oakley and Peter...
This, in turn, allows us to generate survival strategies; for example, by learning to predict other people’s behaviour. Interpersonal skills like this underpin the development of social and cultural structures, which have promoted the survival of human kind for millennia.
If the experience of consciousness does not confer any particular advantage, it’s not clear what its purpose is. But as a passive accompaniment to non-conscious processes, Oakley and Halligan don’t think that the phenomenon of personal awareness has a purpose...
“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
If consciousness is analogous to the rainbow which accompanies physical processes in the atmosphere but exerts no influence over them, what does this mean for the rainbow and what for us?
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