The self and conscious experience

Frontiers in Psychology 15 (1340943):1-15 (2024)
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Abstract

The primary determinant of the self (S) is the conscious experience (CE) we have of it. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that empirical research on S mainly resorts to the CE (or lack of CE) that subjects have of their S. What comes as a surprise is that empirical research on S does not tackle the problem of how CE contributes to building S. Empirical research investigates how S either biases the cognitive processing of stimuli or is altered through a wide range of means (meditation, hypnosis, etc.). In either case, even for different reasons, considerations of how CE contributes to building S are left unspecified in empirical research. This article analyzes these reasons and proposes a theoretical model of how CE contributes to building S. According to the proposed model, the phenomenal aspect of consciousness is produced by the modulation—engendered by attentional activity—of the energy level of the neural substrate (that is, the organ of attention) that underpins attentional activity. The phenomenal aspect of consciousness supplies the agent with a sense of S and informs the agent on how its S is affected by the agent’s own operations. The phenomenal aspect of consciousness performs its functions through its five main dimensions: qualitative, quantitative, hedonic, temporal, and spatial. Each dimension of the phenomenal aspect of consciousness can be explained by a specific aspect of the modulation of the energy level of the organ of attention. Among other advantages, the model explains the various forms of S as outcomes resulting from the operations of a single mechanism and provides a unifying framework for empirical research on the neural underpinnings of S.

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