What Do We Really Know About Consciousness?

Megan Erikson, Associate Editor at Big Think, has a well written piece on the mystery of consciousness -- specifically what we know and what we don't. What intrigues me most about this topic is that most of us assume we know much more about consciousness than we do,which is understandable because we are immersed in conscious awareness. Our brain's penchant for availability bias leads us to think we understand more about this mystery than we really do. It's sort of like swimming in the ocean and believing we understand everything about the ocean because we're immersed in it. From the piece:

A funny thing happened with the invention of fMRI imaging. Rather than explaining away the mysteries of human experience, the technology that made it possible to visualize and map brain activity for the first time only further complicated our understanding of how the mind works.

Yes, we can say with an amazing degree of certainty which parts of the brain “light up” during specific events (falling in love, having an orgasmdealing with money), but the theory that there’s a single area responsible for each of these complex experiences is as outdated as phrenology. Instead, neuroscientists see patterns and associations, correlations and links.

Satisfactory definitions of philosophically loaded concepts like perception and thought remain as elusive as they’ve always been. If physicists can find the “God particle” with a Hadron collider, then why, given their sophisticated tools, have neuroscientists failed to unlock the black box of consciousness?

Read the entire piece at Big Think

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Posted on July 16, 2012 .