7 Awareness and Nonconscious Information Systems

Conscious mind is like the tip of the iceberg; most of our mental activity goes on nonconsciously. Yet nonconscious mind is not like an alternate, hidden consciousness, carrying out the same sort of mental activities you do consciously.

-- Farthing, 1992, p. 16

The only occurrent reality of the mental as mental is consciousness.

-- Searle, 1992, p. 187

Experienced cognition may be described as a sequence of conscious mental states, each characterized by the intentional structure discussed in chapters 4 through 6. I believe that this level of analysis has a special status in psychological theory, and that the framework sketched here suggests appropriate variables for constructing consciousness-centered theories of particular cognitive phenomena. Nevertheless, any serious general theory of cognition must consider what I call the nonconscious information systems that support experienced cognition. Cognitive scientists tell many computational stories about the information processes involved in perception, action, and memory that fail to plausibly (or even remotely) correspond to conscious mental processes. Yet these computational stories do increase our understanding of cognitive phenomena. Although one might argue with any specific theoretical formulation, it seems clear that cognitive theory must deal with the relation between experienced cognition and nonconscious information processes.

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