The central dogma of cognitive psychology is ‘consciousness is a process, not a thing’. Hence, the main task of cognitive neuroscientists is generally seen as working out what kinds of neural processing are conscious and what kinds are not. I argue here that the central dogma is simply wrong. All neural processing is unconscious. The illusion that some of it is conscious results largely from a failure to separate consciousness per se
from a number of unconscious processes that normally accompany it—most particularly focal attention. Conscious sensory experiences are not processes at all. They are things: specifically, spatial electromagnetic (EM) patterns, which are presently generated only by ongoing unconscious processing at certain times and places in the mammalian brain, but which in principle could be generated by hardware rather than wetware. The neurophysiological mechanisms by which putatively conscious EM patterns are generated, the features that may distinguish conscious from unconscious patterns, the general principles that distinguish the conscious patterns of different sensory modalities and the general features that distinguish the conscious patterns of different experiences within any given sensory modality are all described. Suggestions for further development of this paradigm are provided.
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