Global Workpace Theory: A quick tutorial intro.

Bernard J. Baars The Neurosciences Institute San Diego, Calif. See: for downloadable articles, demos and discussion. (Please feel free to contact the author.)
@, B.J. Baars, 2008 1

In the Theater of Consciousness - a useful theoretical metaphor
--- only the bright spot on stage is conscious (because consciousness is very limited in capacity) --- sensory inputs compete for access to the conscious bright spot; so do output plans; --- the "theater stage" corresponds to Working Memory; --- all other parts are unconscious, including longterm memory, the automatic processes of language, and events going on backstage.
(The capacity of unconsciousness is enormous.)

-- the theater metaphor has been
@, B.J. Baars, 2008 2 turned into several testable models. From Carl Carpenter, A New Model of Consciousnes, Sci & Con Rev.2006.

Selective attention controls the spotlight that selects what will be in the bright spot on stage

Backstage is unconscious

The audience is unconscious
@, B.J. Baars, 2008 3

Here is a brain version of global workspace theory:

Prediction: Conscious input activates more widely than similar unconscious input.

‡ Notice that there are two sensory inputs (the red and green arrows), and that the winning input evokes widespread "forward" activity in the brain.

@, B.J. Baars, 2008 From Baars & Gage (eds) Cognition, Brain & Consciousness.


@, B.J. Baars, 2008


Dehaene et al (2001) experimental design.

@, B.J. Baars, 2008


Experimental results:

From Dehaene et al, 2001@, B.J. Baars, 2008


Additional Sources:
PubMed, under "global workspace theory." The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness.

Downloads available at: Brain studies by Stanislas Dehaene and colleagues: Computational simulations by Stan Franklin and colleagues:

@, B.J. Baars, 2008


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