Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory?

19/09/11 5:48 AM

Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory?
In A. Spadafora (ed.) Iride: Luoghi della memoria e dell'oblio, anno. VIII, n. 14, April 1995, pp. 59-78. [Italian] Daniel C. Dennett Is Perception the 'Leading Edge' of Memory? Consciousness appears to us to consist of a sequence of contentful items, arranged in a sequence, the so-called "stream of consciousness," in which each item in turn bursts quite suddenly into consciousness and thereby enters memory, perhaps only briefly to be remembered, and then forgotten. I think that hidden in this comfortable and largely innocent picture of consciousness is a deep and seductive mistake. I intend to expose and elucidate that mistake, and describe an alternative vision. To begin, I want you to recall an occasion on which you have seen fireworks. Perhaps as a child you were startled to realize that a distant flash and a somewhat later boom were caused by the same explosion in the sky. Let's call that the fireworks effect. No doubt some adult explained to you that the reason you had that conscious experience was that the light, traveling much faster than the sound, arrived at you before the sound. You, the observer, are located at a point in space, and when light and sound (and aromas and heat and so forth) reach that point you become conscious of them. This introduces the idea that there is a sort of finish line somewhere in your brain; crossing this line marks the onset of consciousness of any item or content. This finish line can also be seen as the front door of memory, and the idea has been very nicely expressed by the Oxford philosopher, Michael Lockwood. In a paper criticizing my view (Lockwood, forthcoming), he says--as if it were obvious: "consciousness is the leading edge of perceptual memory." (As you see, my memory played a trick on me: I didn't remember his line exactly when I gave the organizers of this conference my title. I remembered him as saying, "perception is the leading edge of memory," but what he said was equally apt: "consciousness is the leading edge of perceptual memory.") And this is an idea which strikes many people-not least Lockwood himself--as so obvious as to need no serious discussion. It is my difficult job to explain to you why this is actually not only not obvious, but rather a subtle mistake. The idea is certainly appealing. If we think about the fireworks, we can see just how appealing it is. Imagine watching "in slow motion" as a little girl experiences the fireworks effect. We see the light start to spread from the explosion (at the speed of light, of course), and soon, when it hits the retina, you say, "Well, she's not conscious of it yet--not quite yet!" After all, merely arriving at her retina isn't enough. You watch as the neural signal from the retina slowly travels up the optic nerve to a relay in the lateral geniculate nucleus, and then on to area V-1 in the cortex, and you say, "Well, still not conscious yet." It is tempting to suppose that somewhere slightly deeper, and at a time slightly later, something special must happen. At that instant--and not before then--the little girl becomes conscious of the light. Then at some much later instant the sound arrives at her ear and works its way slowly from the eardrum on up through the brain, until it too arrives at the imagined finished line at some still later time. This is the idea I want to examine. What it suggests, I think, is that consciousness is a very special sort of--shall we say--turning of the corner of an event in the world. I want to contrast it with some other varieties of turning the corner. We can begin with two very simple cases: reflection, as in a mirror, and refraction, as through a lens.

http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep.htm

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a mechanical device designed to "transduce" the light: the light enters the device and that triggers a switch in medium. that's the end of the line for the light wave. and these events can be very precisely located in time and space. Two different kinds of transduction are shown here. from light rays to sound. Another variety of corner turning is known as transduction.tufts.htm Page 2 of 12 . we have a photo-cell. in this case: the transducer goes "beep!" whenever the light hits it. "red light!" or presses a button. artificial and biological: in one. or performs some other act that manifests that the corner has been http://ase.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. .Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM Figure 1 & 2 Notice that in these cases the photons literally turn the corner. when the light strikes the cell. eventually the person says. In the biological case. Now what about (conscious) observation? Is the entry into consciousness just another sort--but a very special sort--of transduction? figure 3 The red light strikes the conscious observer's eye and . we have a cone cell in the retina. . What happens thereafter is an electrochemical burst of activity in the nervous system. or steps on the brakes of his car.

the light from the arrow on the right fell on the eye and caused a mechanical action in the retina-. Now. attempt at an answer is by René Descartes.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. but mysterious or not. it was a sudden transition into a new medium. They've left behind the idea that consciousness is transduction into a very special medium in the brain. and actually for quite some time. we get transduction into a new medium. they've thrown away the Cartesian "dualist" idea of an immaterial medium. This imagined medium is a physical medium.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM turned. This was truly inexplicable. but it is unique in some way that is yet to be discovered. And whatever the medium turns out to be. Descartes's model has been in disrepute. what can that very special kind of corner turning be? That is the question that faces us. but I claim that they haven't thrown away quite enough.htm Page 3 of 12 . Then.that's transduction into a different mechanical medium--and this caused further mechanical effects (waves) in the cerebro-spinal fluid (which he called "animal spirits"). there must be a reverse transduction: a decision. the passage into the state of consciousness is very http://ase. finally.tufts. perhaps the most famous. but also the most notorious. right in the middle of the brain: the pineal gland. Most modern theorists are materialists. which pump the muscles up. Here is Descartes's own diagram: [figure 4 about here] According to Descartes. if the person (the person's immaterial mind) decides to point at the arrow. Now today. which cause the hand to go up. according to Descartes. Some sort of miraculous change of medium occurred. the immaterial or non-physical medium of consciousness. If we look in the history of science and philosophy for answers to that question. This miraculous transduction into a completely different medium has been rejected. which is immaterial. turning the mere vibration of the pineal gland--a mechano-physical action--into something mysterious. the medium of consciousness itself. But now. which in turn arrived at yet another sort of transducer. must somehow set in motion the animal spirits.

. perceived event rather than an internal. is that it does justice to a list of truisms: (1) Light must strike the retina before processing can begin. (It does not matter that the event experienced be an external. but one does not have to go back very far to find explicit endorsements of the idea. or tacit. but for simplicity I will concentrate on perceptual cases. Marcel Kinsbourne. C. http://ase. together with a response by the author or authors of the "target article". but many neuroscientists--not all of them--have difficulty seeing the implications of this. . Recently. as you can see in the diagram. At this point your brain transduces what has been merely unconscious brain activity into some special sort of conscious activity which happens at the leading edge of memory. In other words.htm Page 4 of 12 . We can read the diagram from left to right. . We now have elaborate maps of functional neuroanatomy. Sherrington was a great neuroscientist earlier in the century. One of the virtues of this diagram. introspected event. and staunchly defended Cartesian materialism! So this is today a controversial issue in the neurosciences. In fact." It is commonly accepted that consciousness is somehow distributed in space and time throughout the brain. Or perhaps we should call it preconscious processing. and then finally the message passes into the theater of conscious. the passage into the state of consciousness is very precisely timeable and locatable as a sort of transduction. .tufts.) Light from events reaches the eye. I call this idea Cartesian materialism. This processing takes place over a brief interval of time. 1992). and this is followed by processing in various parts of the brain that is all unconscious processing. and then . neuroscientists have known it is wrong for quite a long time. and the detail in them is being added to at a great rate. and then . apparently. and in that part most deeply recessed from outside world that is furthest from input and output. . and then. It is in the medium of neuronal activity in various tracts--we need not be more specific for our general purposes. 1934) Neuroscientists today know. Here is a diagram inspired by Lockwood's remark about the leading edge. One of the virtues of this interdisciplinary journal is that every article that appears in it is accompanied by several dozen commentaries by other experts in the relevant fields. it enters through the front door of memory--that's when the consciousness happens. and it's simply wrong. and those who were impervious to our attack. that there is no place in the brain--such as the pineal gland--where everything funnels down together to a point or portal where this "special transduction" occurs.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM be discovered. I published an article about this issue in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Dennett and Kinsbourne. an event in your life enters memory after being processed. And whatever the medium turns out to be. It was fascinating to me to see that the scientists who submitted commentaries on this article were divided roughly into three groups: those who denied that anyone in the field was so foolish as to maintain Cartesian materialism. and there is no one place on these maps "where consciousness happens.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. or underground image that haunts the thinking of many people working on the mind today. those who applauded our attack on what they claimed was indeed a pernicious confusion in the field. and more particularly on visual perception. working with the neuroscientist. [figure 5 about here] I take it to represent the covert. following the sequence in time of events involved in conscious experience of external events. and one could hardly improve on his expression of the Cartesian view: The mental action lies buried in the brain. (Sherrington. S. and have known for some time.

on which shapes would be very briefly flashed." with never an error. But now I will show you an example of a phenomenon that exposes the difficulty with this model. unlike the other speakers at this conference. You would be able to say "a blue disk/ a red disk/ a green disk. The flash is long enough and bright enough so that anybody can see it. (We're not directly aware of the light that falls on our retinas. all you say that you see) is just the second stimulus. All you see (well. is focussing in on a very microscopic issue of time and space. you see only the ring. Suppose for instance that a colored disk is flashed briefly in the center of the screen.htm Page 5 of 12 . the ring. slightly later. [figure 6 about here] If the interval of time between the two stimuli is made very small--a few milliseconds.tufts. I would suppose. a visual illusion that has been much studied by experimental psychologists. breaks down when you try to apply it on the microscopic scale of fractions of a second.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM (2)Processing must happen before consciousness can happen. with the same duration and intensity. if they were then to follow the flash of the disk by flashing a ring in such a way as to surround the space where the disk was. The mistake that I'm exposing is the mistake of supposing that what works so well on the large scale of seconds or minutes. was flashed. It is a stunning effect. (I have a videotape of the phenomenon I like to show to skeptics. If you were a subject in a meta-contrast experiment.) (3) Consciousness must happen before you can remember an experience. they were tempted to tell a story like this: http://ase. There seems to be a disk flashing on the left and a ring flashing. what you would see--or report--would depend on how long the delay was before the second stimulus. So this model seems at first simply to illustrate some undeniable truisms about the nature of consciousness.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. a few thousandths of a second--a remarkable thing happens. You don't see the disk at all.) (4) A memory must be laid down before you can report it. However. (I hope it's apparent that what I'm doing. and the precise nature of the way in which our memories are loaded with the experiences that we have. (That.) Now when researchers first started theorizing about this. You would have no difficulty at all seeing the disk--this is not a "subliminal perception" experiment. On any large scale there is no denying that consciousness is the leading edge of memory. you would sit watching a screen. In fact. there are two disks flashing every time.) My illustration is the phenomenon known as meta-contrast. hours or days or years. is a tautology. on the right.

Figure 8. recalling George Orwell's novel 1984. so that the only thing that enters the theater is just the second stimulus. because it reminds us of Stalin's "show trials" in the 30s.tufts. depicts a contamination of memory. and the ring arrives at the eyeball slightly later. the tampering came before the show." It may seem that it just has to be one way or the other. in which the dirty work happens after the presentation event in consciousness. How could it "catch up" and "pass" or "intercept" the disk message? Before we try to answer that question. which says that the dirty work happens before consciousness and is then accurately recorded thereafter. The earlier theory exhibited in figure 7. up through the nervous system. concealing from all future. and it starts getting processed on its way up. memorable names. I want to give them simple. erases the memory of the conscious experience of the disk. Theorists who thought this way then wondered how the ring message came to be accelerated through the system. in memory. So figure 8 is the Orwellian theory of meta-contrast.htm Page 6 of 12 . So now we seem to have a question for scientists to answer: Is the truth about meta-contrast Stalinesque or Orwellian? But notice that the only difference between the two hypotheses is whether the dirty work is taken to happen before or after the postulated "leading edge. Petella uses in his contribution to this symposium. investigators what really happened. it has its brief moment in the limelight as it crosses the stage. and remember something different instead. the Orwellian model of meta-contrast diagnoses it as a hallucination of memory. I shall call Stalinesque. You will recall. The tampering happens after the disk has come in the front door of memory. up. that there's dirty work done. and ambushes it on its way to the theater of consciousness. of course. you simply fail to remember something that you really experienced.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. There was no tampering with the archives. To echo an expression that Dr. it's only afterwards. the evil historians who rewrote the state archives after the fact. because the contrast they exhibit arises again and again. Somehow it overtakes the disk! It intercepts it. in the Ministry of Truth. where elaborately staged counterfeit events were presented in a show trial. and then accurately recorded for the archives. notice that there's another story that could be told about what happens in meta-contrast: the disk does make it all the way to the theater all right. The memory of the second stimulus. http://ase.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM [figure 7 about here] The disk arrives at the eyeball first. [figure 8 about here] These are apparently two different theories of the same phenomenon. the ring. so I'll call it the Orwellian theory.

this will not answer the question: Orwellian or Stalinesque?--because the defining feature distinguishing the two apparent possibilities is no longer in the model. (I trust you can see that I've simply turned most of the first model on its side. Shape.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep.tufts. for even a single event. These properties. color. I would like to show you that there is. once transduced.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM that there's no third alternative. motion. According to figure 12.) [figure 9 about here] In this model we have processing continuing along in time and memory continuing along simultaneously. And we've lost the vertical line in the middle. are then available for http://ase. Consider a different model. There's nothing necessary about the particular model of consciousness shown in figure 5. Eventually. There is no finish line! [figure 12--first elab-. we can resolve this ignorance by further scientific investigation. and in the meantime we can represent all the possible alternatives by sliding the diagram of the interference from left to right across the diagram. in parallel. such as the flashing of a colored disk.htm Page 7 of 12 . location are fixed in different places and at different times. There may be some real uncertainty or ignorance about just when and where in the brain the interference happens between the effects of the first stimulus and the effects of the second stimulus.about here] Let me elaborate on this alternative model. your visual system decomposes its tasks into separate transductions--separate corner turnings--which determine various visual properties in different places in your brain." Look what happens when we superimpose our question about meta-contrast on the new diagram. we've lost the "leading edge. Does the interference happen relatively early [figure 10 about here] or relatively late? [figure 11 about here] Locate the interference wherever in time you like.

fits the neuroscientific facts better. In the case of meta-contrast.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM a single event. revising. and each time that happens this may further consolidate it so that even years later you will remember that blue disk. than the model in figure 5. and then that there was some blue. erasures. the Cartesian Theater. the disk or "first" stimulus: [figure 13 about here] The first thing that your brain decides is simply that something has happened--you don't yet know what. are then available for influencing later transductions. which I call the Multiple Drafts Model. in the light of the other presentations at this colloquium. reflected upon. [figure 14 about here] But notice that however many times this happens. embellishing. your guesses will be substantially better than chance. dissolving. and the content that http://ase. and finally these contents get bound together to create the discriminated content: there was a blue disk. if you are shown sometimes a single stimulus--the ring--and sometimes both stimuli. simply a vestigial trace of the bad model in figure 5. which shows that some residual effects are still in your brain. once transduced. The mistake lies in supposing that in addition to these editing processes. What work is that line doing? The answer is: it isn't doing any work. the ring. changing. there is not a first instant at which you are conscious of a blue disk. for instance. but if you are required to guess each time whether it was preceded by a disk. Your perceptual judgments evolve gradually. you will claim in each case to have seen just a single stimulus. your brain normally keeps no record of before and after. lets say. Now this is really not so surprising. Or if the green ring doesn't come along. What is going to be the future of that blue-disk-content bound together? It may almost immediately deteriorate and have no more effects at all. revisions. This alternative model. These properties. In the case of meta-contrast. later bindings. for a common theme in them has been that both memory and perception are constructive processes evolving their constructions in time. it will go on to determine that what happened was. You may well wonder what the horizontal line dividing processing from memory signifies in figure 12. On the alternative model. much better. in fact. such as the flashing of a colored disk. but be recapitulated.htm Page 8 of 12 . it is. The content blue is actually determined by your brain after the content circle.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. and that it was a circle. here is what happens if you are shown just a single stimulus.tufts. on the left. there is a privileged process that amounts to the "official" presentation of a canonical version (rather like the frames of a film being illuminated in turn by a sort of Cartesian cinema projector. and hence you are unable to detect this revision process--though its traces can be uncovered by subtle experiments. it may not only hang around. If you give the brain enough time. but since they continually replace their predecessors. there isn't any real boundary in time or space separating processing from memory.

then and finally realizing that the blue goes with the circle. But of course your experience is not one of first realizing that something's happened. This temporal freedom provided by the Multiple Drafts Model permits us to explain other initially puzzling. phenomena. Now which theory might be the truth? The Multiple Drafts Model declares that neither one is the truth. during that brief delay but after B has arrived and been recognized. psychologists have studied phenomena of apparent motion. and it has to know what color it is. and then you're conscious of B. but this illusion. represented by frames C and D. The philosopher Nelson Goodman once asked the psychologist Paul Kolers some years ago.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM these two contents go together is something that comes along fractionally later still. not a real trajectory.I will briefly present one example. According to it. theory which also could explain the illusion. then realizing that there's a circle shape. It can decide there's a circle on the left and it's red and there's a circle on the right and it's green. frames C and D are rapidly constructed or confabulated. and that there must have been change in between them. 19xx[add to bib]) For instance. But this is an illusory trajectory. The rapid succession of stationary shapes slightly displaced creates the illusion of motion. what if you flash a red light. of course. but in fact. and this presents a puzzle. For instance. some editing studio. and inserted into the film that is then sent up to the theater for viewing in a Stalinesque show trial. and in the time remaining.htm Page 9 of 12 . And in that studio. [figure 15 about here] Your brain cannot create the content of a mid-trajectory color change--it cannot create frames C and D in the metaphorical diagram--until it has received and analyzed the second stimulus (as represented by frame B in the diagram). In the simplest cases (which are the best cases for psychological research). in his recent book The Emperor's New Mind (1989). and then another little red light is flashed on the screen slightly to one side or the other. But apparently there's another. even apparently paradoxical. that sequence is occurring in your brain. A Stalinesque theory to "solve" this problem would be to suppose that there's something like a "delay loop" in the brain: that A and B arrive in sequence at some antechamber. you will see what appears to be a single moving spot of red light. what happens if the lights are different colors? (Goodman. and the answer is: yes.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. they are the basis for motion pictures and television. If a little red light is flashed on a screen in front of you. the Oxford physicist Roger Penrose. It has to "know" that there's a second light. Almost immediately you seem to remember having seen motion occurring between A and B.tufts. Now this is an idea that many people find extremely hard to accept because it suggests to them that there must be some sort of backwards causation in time. is simply a contamination of memory. The truth is that the brain is quite capable of putting retrospective content elements into it's narrative stream. But this natural but mistaken conclusion is "pre-dated": it is given a "postmark" which places it at an earlier time in the sequence in your own stream of consciousness. suggests that we have to http://ase. before it can start creating the illusion that we observe in this case. you're conscious of A. or the "projection" backwards in time of a later event. Orwellian. For almost a hundred years. you can't distinguish that sequence. known as phi phenomena. We are all familiar with phi phenomena. Now you may well wonder: what happens to the color of the "single" light that you see? It starts off red and then there is an abrupt mid-trajectory change to green. single spots of colored light are the stimuli. there is motion. somewhere between the eyeball and the theater of consciousness. and then you flash a green light? Will there be apparent motion? Kolers and von Grünau ran the appropriate experiments. then realizing that it's blue or that there is blue in the world. Frames C and D are spuriously inserted in memory by the Orwellian historians after the fact (of consciousness). and then your memory plays a trick on you.

experienced time can have backwards kinks in it when we map it onto objective time.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. suggests that we have to have a revolution in physics in order to explain these effects. not by their temporal locations. Graphically. curious occasions when time itself is apparently bent by the way the brain deals with the events falling on it. [figure 16 about here] The order in which events seem to happen to you in your stream of consciousness is not the same as the order of events occurring in your brain which are the very vehicles of those contents in your experience. in his recent book The Emperor's New Mind (1989). In fact. however. What we learn from the periscope is that the idea of here--the observer's spatial location--is fixed by the content. show that the brain can create what we might call temporal periscopes. the temporal sequence of subjective experience is not fixed by the sequence in which the relevant events actually happen in in the brain. you experience a rather striking effect: the light bounces off the mirrors into your eyes. we are already quite comfortable with it when it is applied to a different dimension: space. This does not involve any mysterious projection in space of some ghostly or immaterial eye or mind. That is. for the same reason that http://ase. I am claiming. What such phenomena actually show is indeed that the subjective sequence of conscious experience does not always line up with the objective sequence of the events in your brain that determine your subjective experience. that the subjective sense of now--the observer's temporal location--is fixed by the content of those brain events. The actual events in your brain that accomplish vision are happening down in the brain. up to where the top mirror is.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM Oxford physicist Roger Penrose.htm Page 10 of 12 . Consider this diagram of a periscope. This has some rather striking implications. almost miraculously. phenomena such as the phi phenomenon (and other. not by the physical location of the brain events the neural events that are its vehicles. It is a projection that is embedded in the content of your vision. but where you seem to be is translated up by a couple of mirrors which preserve the content of vision as it would be in the higher location. that is where you seem to be when you use a periscope. and this has the effect of shifting your point of view. In other words. but by the sequence that they represent. 1992). In an exactly parallel way. it is merely a logical projection. It is also true. that this idea is not as strange and revolutionary as it first appears. more complicated phenomena discussed in Dennett 1991 and Dennett and Kinsbourne. I want to show you. That is where your eyes seem to be. not a property of the vehicles of that content. [figure 17 about here] You know that when you use a periscope.

to the minute. By the same token. but by the sequence that they represent. "L'état. alas. for the same reason that subjective location is not to be equated with some location of transduction. at most a day. As Louis XIV said. the King was George III. marked "L" is the pineal gland. What is known in American history as the War of 1812 was fought between the British and the Americans. in answering the question about just when the http://ase. but rather by the content: by the sense that your brain makes of all of those contents. 1814. subjective timing--subjective sequence and subjective simultaneity. several weeks after the event. It arrived in London. the notorious Battle of New Orleans. c'est moi!" But in this instance. Over a thousand British troops were killed. But I want to make opportunistic use of his diagram to illustrate my main point on a different scale of space and time. This still wouldn't tell us when "the British Empire" learned of the signing of the truce. and the other officials in London learned it some time later. The members of Parliament. You might be tempted to say this is false: what matters is when the King learns.tufts. to the second. "G" can stand for Ghent. temporal location is not to be equated with some time of transduction. "L" can stand for London. because no one of those agents counts as the place where the British Empire resides. in Ghent.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. [figure 18 about here] One last little story will illustrate my point. Reflection in a mirror is not transduction at all--there is no change in medium. when each element. Now suppose we were to ask the following somewhat bizarre question: when did the British Empire learn about the signing of the truce? The ambassador in Ghent learned about the signing of the truce instantaneously. which constitute the order in which your stream of consciousness unfolds--is not actually determined by the order of the contentful events that occur in your brain. within a few hours. but the apparent or subjective location of the observer--of you--is determined by the content (not by the vehicle). Right in the middle. the two opposing nations signed a peace treaty. The poor commander of the British forces near New Orleans learned it only too late. It arrived in New Orleans too late to prevent a battle.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM happen in in the brain. and it really didn't make much difference when he learned things! He was not really in charge. after the signing of the treaty in Ghent. In other words. Figure 18 is in fact an early diagram of the brain by Vesalius. So the best we can do. Let's pretend that this is a map of the Earth. and it is followed by later transductions and other operations in the brain. he watched his own hand sign the treaty. each agent. which was fought two weeks after the treaty was signed. and the King. and on Christmas Eve. The transduction of the light actually happens in your eye. The news of that signing thereupon began to travel out around the globe in all directions at a rather slow pace. Suppose we knew to the day. of the British Empire learned of the signing of the truce. no doubt. which is fixed by the structure of the light at that point. Notice that the apparent location of your eye when you use a periscope (see figure 17) is not due to a special transduction event.htm Page 11 of 12 .

The Emperor's New Mind. 1992. References Dennett.tufts. 1989. Consciousness Explained." In exactly the same way.." Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Dennett. 15." in Inquiry. It could have a precise answer only if we could locate you at some point in your brain. it is not a sharp edge. C. a fifth of a second. forthcoming. "Time and the Observer: the Where and When of Consciousness in the Brain. but are rather distributed around throughout your brain--since Descartes was wrong about there being a point in the brain "where it all comes together"--if you ask yourself the question. in conclusion. Cambridge University Press.. not a precise answer. S. There isn't any such moment as the instant of onset of consciousness.Is Perception the "Leading Edge" of Memory? 19/09/11 5:48 AM British Empire learned of the signing of the truce.htm Page 12 of 12 . The Brain and its Mechanism. D.. Sherrington. M. R. since you are not located in any one place in your brain. "Dennett's Mind. and it follows from that that although consciousness is.. Lockwood. M. http://ase. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp183-247. Boston: Little Brown. the door into memory. we see that the time of becoming conscious cannot be precisely defined. and Kinsbourne. 1934. Since the transmission of information around in the brain is relatively slow. the dating of events in consciousness--the dating for you--has to be smeared over maybe as much as 200 msec. March 1993. And so. D. as tradition would insist. Penrose. "When did I become conscious of some particular event?" that question can have only a vague answer.edu/cogstud/papers/ispercep. 1991. is to say something along the lines of "late 1814 to early 1815.

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