1. Joined
    01 Jun '06
    Moves
    274
    14 Jan '08 21:05
    Driving in to work a couple of days ago, I came up on a junction where I had right of way but because of the traffic situation (crawling), I normally let someone across if they are waiting.

    I saw the car that was approaching the junction and waved him across. I saw the van that was stopping to wait for someone else to let him through so I pulled out after the car. I did not see the bike that had followed the car until after I had stood on the brakes. I'll rephrase that. I did not become conscious of the bike until after I had seen, analysed and reacted to it's presence. The decision to act was made without my consciousness being involved.

    I believe this is actually always the case, it only becomes apparent in particular situations. There is an illusion of conscious control. My conscious self does not decide to have cornflakes in the morning; my body and brain makes the decision and my consciousness simply becomes aware of it.

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
  2. Donationrwingett
    Ming the Merciless
    Royal Oak, MI
    Joined
    09 Sep '01
    Moves
    26187
    15 Jan '08 00:12
    Originally posted by Penguin
    Driving in to work a couple of days ago, I came up on a junction where I had right of way but because of the traffic situation (crawling), I normally let someone across if they are waiting.

    I saw the car that was approaching the junction and waved him across. I saw the van that was stopping to wait for someone else to let him through so I pulled out after ...[text shortened]... ecision and my consciousness simply becomes aware of it.

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
    How is your consciousness independent from your body and brain?
  3. Joined
    15 Oct '06
    Moves
    10115
    15 Jan '08 00:496 edits
    Originally posted by Penguin
    Driving in to work a couple of days ago, I came up on a junction where I had right of way but because of the traffic situation (crawling), I normally let someone across if they are waiting.

    I saw the car that was approaching the junction and waved him across. I saw the van that was stopping to wait for someone else to let him through so I pulled out after ecision and my consciousness simply becomes aware of it.

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
    I had a similar experience while walking on a paved bicycle path a couple of years ago. I was looking around not paying attention to the path when my right foot raised and suddenly came down hard in-place instead of taking a full step. About 10 feet in front of me there was a rattle snake stretched out on the path. I had no conscious knowledge of the snake until then.

    A while back I read a book called "On Desire" by William B. Irvine that you might find interesting. Here's a quote from a book review that's related to your inquiry:

    "I'm intrigued by the idea that to some extent we don't really know all that's going on in our minds and have to watch our own behavior to see what it is we really want. This jibes with the idea that when mental processing occurs outside of conscious awareness, our conscious selves will make up some kind of story to explain the results. (E.g., see Michael Gazzaniga's interpreter theory; this article describes some work he did with split-brain patients that led him to develop this theory.) Russell's point was that we lie to ourselves about what we want, even going so far as to develop false belief systems to kid ourselves."

    Here's the link to the review:
    http://thinkingmeat.com/newsblog/?p=526
  4. Joined
    06 May '05
    Moves
    9174
    15 Jan '08 02:19
    Originally posted by Penguin
    Driving in to work a couple of days ago, I came up on a junction where I had right of way but because of the traffic situation (crawling), I normally let someone across if they are waiting.

    I saw the car that was approaching the junction and waved him across. I saw the van that was stopping to wait for someone else to let him through so I pulled out after ...[text shortened]... ecision and my consciousness simply becomes aware of it.

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
    Driving is something that people just do without thinking much - unless there's an emergency or something else out of the norm happens then it really isn't an activity that requires much thought at all.

    So it's easy to just go on automatic when driving. I used to commute 30-40 minutes on the highway and there were some days that I didn't really remember the drive home. I wasn't drunk and I was awake - I would have been dead if I was either of the two (I also never get drunk), but I had driven that drive home so many times that it was just automatic and didn't have to think much about it.
  5. Cape Town
    Joined
    14 Apr '05
    Moves
    52945
    15 Jan '08 06:42
    Originally posted by Penguin
    Driving in to work a couple of days ago, I came up on a junction where I had right of way but because of the traffic situation (crawling), I normally let someone across if they are waiting.

    I saw the car that was approaching the junction and waved him across. I saw the van that was stopping to wait for someone else to let him through so I pulled out after ...[text shortened]... ecision and my consciousness simply becomes aware of it.

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
    Many brain functions can and are delegated to unconscious sections of the brain. However, to a large extent these delegated unconscious functions must first be learnt.
    I do not think that all actions are unconscious.

    A few examples of the experience you had:
    1. Many reactions to sudden events as in the story you described result in a reflex action which has been learnt and can be performed faster than the consciousness can respond to.
    2. I am able to read a book out loud to my son while thinking about something totally different and not consciously absorbing anything from what I am reading.
    3. Many actions such as walking etc take advantage of unconscious yet learnt abilities. When first learning to ice skate one must retrain some of the reflexes but after a while it is possible to skate without thinking about it at all.
    4. I am able to touch-type without consciously thinking about where the letters are on the keyboard. In fact if you ask me where a letter is I actually imagine typing it and then 'see' where my finger went to find out where the letter is.
    5. When we read, our eyes and brain interpret the images into words and sentences and often only the whole sentence or even only the meaning of the sentence actually reaches the consciousness.

    I still maintain however that our consciousness can override most unconscious thought patterns and is often the actual initiator of many of our actions.
  6. Standard memberKellyJay
    Walk your Faith
    USA
    Joined
    24 May '04
    Moves
    148435
    15 Jan '08 07:33
    Originally posted by Penguin
    Driving in to work a couple of days ago, I came up on a junction where I had right of way but because of the traffic situation (crawling), I normally let someone across if they are waiting.

    I saw the car that was approaching the junction and waved him across. I saw the van that was stopping to wait for someone else to let him through so I pulled out after ...[text shortened]... ecision and my consciousness simply becomes aware of it.

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
    I wonder if habits are so hard to break because of this, we know what
    we should or shouldn't do, yet we want the habit to go on so it does
    even in the face of knowledge it is not what we claim we want to do
    or not do.
    Kelly
  7. Joined
    01 Jun '06
    Moves
    274
    15 Jan '08 07:50
    Originally posted by PsychoPawn
    Driving is something that people just do without thinking much - unless there's an emergency or something else out of the norm happens then it really isn't an activity that requires much thought at all.

    So it's easy to just go on automatic when driving. I used to commute 30-40 minutes on the highway and there were some days that I didn't really remembe ...[text shortened]... rive home so many times that it was just automatic and didn't have to think much about it.
    Driving is something that people just do without thinking much - unless there's an emergency or something else out of the norm happens then it really isn't an activity that requires much thought at all.

    Well this was both an emergency and something out of the norm and it clearly required no conscious thought at all.

    --- Penguin.
  8. Joined
    01 Jun '06
    Moves
    274
    15 Jan '08 08:03
    Originally posted by rwingett
    How is your consciousness independent from your body and brain?
    It is not separate at all. To quote somebody or other "the mind is what the brain does". However, the implication I was trying to put across with the (true) story is that even when we think we make a decision through conscious thought and deliberation (I think I'll buy this camera and not that one because...), we do not actually consciously make the decision, we consciously become aware of the decision that has already been made.

    Our conscious mind is not in control of our actions, it is mearly a side effect of the processing our brain does.

    There have been experiments where subjects have been told to watch a clock hand and, whenever they wanted, to perform an action (eg click their fingers) and note the position of the clock hand at the point they made the decision. The researchers noted this time, the time of the action and also the time of an electrical event in the brain, called the 'readiness potential' that is not to occur before a particular action. The readiness potential occurs before the subjects reported that they had decided to act.

    --- Penguin.
  9. Cape Town
    Joined
    14 Apr '05
    Moves
    52945
    15 Jan '08 10:32
    Originally posted by Penguin
    It is not separate at all. To quote somebody or other "the mind is what the brain does". However, the implication I was trying to put across with the (true) story is that even when we think we make a decision through conscious thought and deliberation (I think I'll buy this camera and not that one because...), we do not actually consciously ...[text shortened]... the decision, we consciously [i]become aware of the decision that has already been made.
    You are taking a big leap from 'reflex actions' (as in the story) to 'all decisions'. Are you even claiming that you made the decision to brake? I don't think you are. Your braking was a reflex action.
    When deciding what camera to buy the result is often a direct result of some conscious reasoning. For example you may have looked at the price and consciously decided what price was acceptable.

    Our conscious mind is not in control of our actions, it is mearly a side effect of the processing our brain does.

    There have been experiments where subjects have been told to watch a clock hand and, whenever they wanted, to perform an action (eg click their fingers) and note the position of the clock hand at the point they made the decision. The researchers noted this time, the time of the action and also the time of an electrical event in the brain, called the 'readiness potential' that is not to occur before a particular action. The readiness potential occurs before the subjects reported that they had decided to act.

    --- Penguin.

    I can see that there are a number of possible flaws in the experiment you describe.
  10. Standard memberknightmeister
    knightmeister
    Uk
    Joined
    21 Jan '06
    Moves
    443
    15 Jan '08 10:42
    Originally posted by Penguin
    Driving in to work a couple of days ago, I came up on a junction where I had right of way but because of the traffic situation (crawling), I normally let someone across if they are waiting.

    I saw the car that was approaching the junction and waved him across. I saw the van that was stopping to wait for someone else to let him through so I pulled out after ...[text shortened]... ecision and my consciousness simply becomes aware of it.

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
    What implications would this have for morality? How could we judge Hitler if we really believed he had no conscious control over himself , maybe no control at all? If conscious choice is just illusionary then we have no real control over our lives and are ultimately robots, and if this is true how might we judge a robot. How can we be held to account for anything we do in reality if we have no control?
  11. Standard memberBosse de Nage
    Zellulärer Automat
    Spiel des Lebens
    Joined
    27 Jan '05
    Moves
    83887
    15 Jan '08 10:43
    Originally posted by Penguin

    What say you guys?

    --- Penguin.
    I suppose I'd ask what the function of the conscious mind is. A lot of the time, it's a question of choosing between options probably prompted by history and environment. Funny how it can cock up when you overthink a situation instead trusting your instincts (what are those?).

    Hindu literature classifies the mind (in the sense you describe) as a sense. Western culture ascribes considerably more importance to it.
  12. Cape Town
    Joined
    14 Apr '05
    Moves
    52945
    15 Jan '08 12:45
    Originally posted by knightmeister
    What implications would this have for morality? How could we judge Hitler if we really believed he had no conscious control over himself , maybe no control at all? If conscious choice is just illusionary then we have no real control over our lives and are ultimately robots, and if this is true how might we judge a robot. How can we be held to account for anything we do in reality if we have no control?
    How and why do you judge Hitler anyway? Your concept of free will did not include conscious control if you remember.
    Why should someone be judged based on whether or not they have conscious control? We are not judging the consciousness but the person as a whole and how he works and who has control is not really relevant.
    Why do you talk as if you = your consciousness? What happened to your spirit etc etc? What about the rest of your body?

    We should judge a robot exactly the same way as we judge each other, but only if we first decide to give it 'rights'.
  13. Joined
    06 May '05
    Moves
    9174
    15 Jan '08 13:45
    Originally posted by Penguin
    [b]Driving is something that people just do without thinking much - unless there's an emergency or something else out of the norm happens then it really isn't an activity that requires much thought at all.

    Well this was both an emergency and something out of the norm and it clearly required no conscious thought at all.

    --- Penguin.[/b]
    Having to stop isn't always a hard decision or an emergency - you saw the bike and you stopped.

    Of course, I don't have all the details, but I find it hard to conceive that somehow you weren't conscious. There are instances of people driving when they are sleeping, but those are very rare too.
  14. Cape Town
    Joined
    14 Apr '05
    Moves
    52945
    15 Jan '08 14:06
    Originally posted by Penguin
    I did not become conscious of the bike until [b]after I had seen, analysed and reacted to it's presence. The decision to act was made without my consciousness being involved.[/b]
    What must also be considered is the question of what is or is not part of your consciousness. You state that it was not involved without really questioning it. There are of course many other possibilities. Maybe you consciously made the decision but your thoughts at the time were not recorded into memory or you are unable to find the record?
    For example I was once involved in a car accident (I rolled a vehicle all the way over and back onto its wheels) and I was conscious during the first part of the event and almost certainly made some conscious decisions during that time but it was not until months later that I was able to recall some of the details.

    Another interesting topic is dreams, our consciousness is involved and if we are woken up during a dream and immediately asked about it we can tell some of the details but we quickly forget them and normally forget most of our dreams soon after or even before waking up in the morning.
  15. Joined
    01 Jun '06
    Moves
    274
    15 Jan '08 22:251 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    What must also be considered is the question of what is or is not part of your consciousness. You state that it was not involved without really questioning it. There are of course many other possibilities. Maybe you consciously made the decision but your thoughts at the time were not recorded into memory or you are unable to find the record?
    For example ...[text shortened]... them and normally forget most of our dreams soon after or even before waking up in the morning.
    A good point well made. It is quite possible that I was fully conscious and consciously in control of my actions but that the conscious awareness was not stored in my memory. Under the circumstances, maybe storage of experience took a back seat and when, a second later, I looked backed for the memory of the experience, there was none there. Memory is well known to be unreliable.

    On the other hand, this should not apply to the 'readiness potential' experiments I mentioned since they were not under such stressful conditions. I Googled "Readiness Potential" and came up with several good sites. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/231 has an interesting proposed timeline of events regarding the situation of an ex-smoker being offered a cigarette, realising he is about to unconsciously accept the offer and then consciously vetoing the action.

    I'd like to know what TWhitehead's problems are with the 'readiness potential' experiment I mentioned.

    Boss de Nage has raised the important issue of what consciousness is for if it has no direct control. I don't really know but off the top of my head maybe it helps learning through reflection on memories of experience. Most animals, I'm guessing, learn through pavlovian responses to events whereas we can reflect and analyse events in far greater detail though being conscious. Maybe that helps to affect future unconscious decisions that can also be consciously analysed after the event.

    --- Penguin.
Back to Top