Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New research distinguishes roles of conscious and sub-conscious awareness in information processing

Date:
December 1, 2011
Source:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Summary:
What distinguishes information processing with conscious awareness from processing occurring without awareness? And, is there any role for conscious awareness in information processing, or is it just a byproduct, like the steam from the chimney of a train engine, which is significant, but has no functional role? These questions - which have long puzzled psychologists, philosophers, and neurobiologists - were recently addressed in a new study.

What distinguishes information processing with conscious awareness from processing occurring without awareness? And, is there any role for conscious awareness in information processing, or is it just a byproduct, like the steam from the chimney of a train engine, which is significant, but has no functional role?

Related Articles


These questions -- which have long puzzled psychologists, philosophers, and neurobiologists -- were recently addressed in a study by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers and published by the journal Psychological Science.

The study was headed by Prof. Leon Deouell from the Hebrew University's Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) and Department of Psychology and Prof. Dominique Lamy from the Department of Psychology at Tel Aviv University, and conducted by research student Liad Mudirk of Tel Aviv University with collaboration of research student Assaf Breska from the Hebrew University.

We are not consciously aware of most of the input that hits upon our sensory systems. Yet subjectively, conscious awareness dominates our mental activity. "One of the dominant theories in cognitive sciences and psychology posits that parts of the information perceived without awareness may be processed to a certain extent," says Prof. Deouell. "Yet to bind the different parts of a complex input into something meaningful and coherent requires conscious awareness.

To test this theory, the research team ran a study in which they presented participants with pictures of natural scenes including some human action, like a picture of basketball players jumping to reach a ball.

In other tests, the same scenes were presented -- except that the central object was replaced by another, unlikely object. For example, the basketball was replaced by a watermelon.

The participants viewed the pictures through a mirror stereoscope, a simple device that allowed the research team to present the pictures to only one eye. At the same time, the other eye viewed rapidly flickering patterns of colors which drew the subjects' attention, so that the participants were not aware for many seconds that anything was presented to their other eye. This allowed the researchers to measure how long it takes normal and unusual scenes to "win the competition" against the flickering pattern and break into awareness.

"We found that participants became aware of the unusual scenes earlier than to the usual scenes," commented Deouell. "The conclusion was that even before the participants were aware of the existence of the picture, the semantic relationships between parts of the scene were interpreted."

The study shows that, counter to previous theories, integration is not the prerogative of conscious awareness but is achieved even without awareness. When and why then do we need conscious awareness?

The findings of this research suggest that when the results of the integration between parts of the input are incompatible with expectations or prior knowledge, awareness is required in order to account for the conundrum. Thus, the study expands the realm of unaware processes, yet shows that conscious awareness is not a meaningful luxury -- it allows us to deal with novel and unexpected situations.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. Mudrik, A. Breska, D. Lamy, L. Y. Deouell. Integration Without Awareness: Expanding the Limits of Unconscious Processing. Psychological Science, 2011; 22 (6): 764 DOI: 10.1177/0956797611408736

Cite This Page:

Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "New research distinguishes roles of conscious and sub-conscious awareness in information processing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111130100010.htm>.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (2011, December 1). New research distinguishes roles of conscious and sub-conscious awareness in information processing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111130100010.htm
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "New research distinguishes roles of conscious and sub-conscious awareness in information processing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111130100010.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins