“Consciousness and the Brain” Deciphering How the Brain Codes our Thoughts” is an outstanding book by the French neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene who is the Chair of Experimental Psychology at the College of France. It is only a matter of time before this book becomes as classic. The novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote in “Bend Sinister,” “Consciousness is the only real thing in the world and the greatest mystery of all.” We all personally experience consciousness and we think we know what consciousness is. Consequently many people would be surprised to learn that many psychologists and philosophers think that consciousness is epiphenomenal. That is, we are just along for the ride. The real action is in the brain and the brain exhibits consciousness to keep us entertained.
Perhaps the primary reason the study of consciousness is avoided by scientists is that it is difficult to study. The founding father of cognitive psychology, George Miller, wrote in his textbook “Psychology, the Science of Mental Life” in 1962, “Consciousness is a word worn smooth by a million tongues…Maybe we should ban the word for a decade or two until we can develop more precise terms for the several uses which ‘consciousness’ now obscures.” Well time has passed and a better definition of consciousness has been articulated, and the development of methods for experimentally manipulating consciousness. along with a new respect for subjective phenomena has resulted in important findings about consciousness and the brain. Dehaene’s book eloquently describes the research methodology and the research findings.
Signatures of conscious thoughts have been identified. Three ingredients—focusing on conscious access, manipulating conscious perception, and carefully recording introspection—have transformed the study of consciousness into a normal experimental science. Brain imaging techniques have provided a key methodology for performing this research.
The research in this book is overwhelming. I could devote a blog exclusively to this book. I want to convey the important points of the outstanding work, without bogging you down in details that might be demanding to read. My plan is to post blogs on a chapter by chapter basis. There are seven chapters, so I anticipate seven more posts plus, perhaps, a couple of additional posts.
This work is certainly relevant for the healthy memory blog. Memory health is critically important and involves understanding and using our brains to optimal advantage, which includes consciously making best use of our attentional resources.
These posts will address growth mindsets and attentional resources, but the reading of the book itself should significantly enhance growth mindsets.
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