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Measuring consciousness: From behaviour to neurophysiology

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Tea & cakes available in 2nd floor Seminar Room from 4pm

How can we measure whether a particular sensory, motor, or cognitive event is consciously experienced or remains unconscious? Such measurements provide the essential data on which a science of consciousness depends, yet there is no clear consensus on how such measurements should be made. Much of what we know derives from subjective (introspective) verbal report, but on some theories such reports confound mechanisms of metacognitive access with mechanisms of consciousness and are also susceptible to biases. In response, there has been a growing emphasis on neurophysiological measures as well as on behavioral measures that do not rely on introspection. But for these ‘objective’ measures it can be hard to guarantee that they are measuring consciousness per se. I will review definitional, methodological, and conceptual issues surrounding the problem of measuring consciousness and describe specific examples based on both behavior and on neurophysiology. In the former case I will focus on ‘post-decision wagering’, and in the latter, on measures of ‘complexity’ and ‘causal density’ in neural dynamics.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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