How does consciousness work - how do we perceive the world ? Image Credit: sxc.hu
Scientists have shed new light on how we experience the world through our perception of consciousness.
Understanding how consciousness works has intrigued both scientists and philosophers alike for centuries, but while it is something that we experience every day without even thinking about it, conscious perception remains a very difficult thing to describe or explain.
One theory suggests that consciousness occurs as a constant stream similar to how you might experience a movie at the cinema, while another implies that our conscious perception consists instead of a series of individual moments stitched together in to a seamless, cohesive whole.
Now however scientists in Switzerland have put forward a third possibility - one that takes in to account both of the previous theories by suggesting that consciousness is comprised of 400ms "slices" of time that are processed unconsciously before we become aware of them.
"The reason is that the brain wants to give you the best, clearest information it can, and this demands a substantial amount of time," said researcher Michael Herzog. "There is no advantage in making you aware of its unconscious processing, because that would be immensely confusing."
The team believes that the period of time in which the processed data is experienced consciously may last only 50ms before new sensory information is received and the process repeats.
Somehow the brain is able to effectively combine all of this together in to a single flow of events.
"Metaphorically, such a representation is akin to the answer to the question of how were your holidays: 'We enjoyed the colours of the Tuscan landscape for three days and then went to Venice for four sunny days at the sea'," the study authors wrote.
"The response is a compressed post-hoc description regarding the temporal features of the trip, even though the actual event was spread over a long period of time."
Source: Science Alert | Comments (26)
Similar stories based on this topic:
Brain, Consciousness, Perception