Michael Graziano: The Spirit Constructed in the Brain

I perceive consciousness in myself. My brain constructs a perceptual model of a mind that thinks this and that, feels this and that and is aware of this and that; the mind is attributed to my own location. That model provides an organized, coherent way for me to understand myself — to predict and help guide my behavior. It is not always accurate; it is woefully incomplete; but it is a useful model of myself.

This realization that consciousness is a perception is counterintuitive. We think of consciousness as something ghostly that inhabits an object. But according to this neuro-social theory, consciousness is a perception that is attributed to something. Like beauty, consciousness is in the eye of the beholder. Our brains actively paint consciousness onto ourselves and onto the objects around us.

via Michael Graziano: The Spirit Constructed in the Brain.

Reader and fellow science enthusiast amanimal called my attention to a series of old posts from Michael Graziano.  This particular one caught my eye because it seems to be a similar theory of consciousness to the one I described in my posts:

Consciousness is in the eye of the beholder

More on computer consciousness.

I hadn’t seen Graziano’s posts before, so I’m somewhat stoked that my idea matches an actual neuroscience theory.  Anyway, if you enjoyed my posts, you’ll almost certainly enjoy Graziano’s, particularly since I think he articulates the core idea better than I did.

If you are interested in a more rigorous treatment, check out this paper from Graziano.  He also has a book out on this which I’m almost certainly going to have to read.

h/t amanimal for the links

4 thoughts on “Michael Graziano: The Spirit Constructed in the Brain

  1. Fascinating stuff; I might read read his book. Still, from what little I read, it seems like he’s pushing the question back. Assigning consciousness to myself may explain a type of conscious experience, but not consciousness per se, for even this illusory view of consciousness requires an awareness of it.


  2. In yoga, ancient wisdom teaches that consciousness is “a mirror of the self” where the “self” is assumed to be a spooky, eternal thing that is reincarnated, etc. The self might be incarnated in a different creature (e.g. a dog), in which consciousness is a different experience (more dog-like) and the “self” then perceives itself to be a dog.

    Seems like contemporary neuroscience might be able to explain ancient Hindu belief systems, without any of the supernatural bits.


  3. Pingback: Behold

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