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Thread: the unconscious (#2)

  1. #1 the unconscious (#2) 
    Time Lord
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    Would I be right in supposing that anything that we do that is not performed consciously is in fact "delegated" to the unconscious part of our mind /body?

    And as a corollary would it be fair to say that , if (as I feel) it is impossible to perform 2 actions consciously at the same time then all the actions that we are carrying out are in fact performed by the unconscious -except for the one particular activity that we are at that time consciously focused upon?


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    Forum Ph.D. stander-j's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Would I be right in supposing that anything that we do that is not performed consciously is in fact "delegated" to the unconscious part of our mind /body?

    And as a corollary would it be fair to say that , if (as I feel) it is impossible to perform 2 actions consciously at the same time then all the actions that we are carrying out are in fact performed by the unconscious -except for the one particular activity that we are at that time consciously focused upon?
    Yes to the first part, take for example something like the following: You're driving a car and have to take a different route home than you usually do (let's say you've got to pick up some mail or something), while driving you turn off towards your home while knowing you're supposed to get whatever you're getting. This is an example of what is known as automatic processing/tasks. This is an unconscious act that was not facilitated concsiously.

    The 2nd part to your question becomes tricky:

    In order for something to be an unconcious task it needs to be:
    I) Done without knowledge of.
    II) Done involuntarily.
    III) Cannot hinder processing of controlled tasks.

    Automatic tasks are as such usually because they have been done so often that it doesn't take up much, if any, processing resources. The Stroop Task (if unknown, google it) is an excellent example of this. Dual-Task Controlled Processing is certainly possible, but it takes practice, again driving a car is an excellent example - with experience, driving a vehicle becomes a lot less complex.


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    Time Lord
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    I am sorry that I find your reply (the 2nd part) a little difficult to understand.

    Could I ask you if you could give an example of any two mental or physical processes which (1) occur simultaneously and (2) can both be considered to be conscious ?

    I think what I am trying to get at is that we may think that a lot of the things we do are conscious but only one is actually conscious at any one time (maybe you appreciated that and I have just not understood your answer).

    I mean if we are carrying out a process that involves being attentive to more than one aspect can we actually focus consciously on any more than one aspect at the same time ? (Or can we say that "same time " makes no sense anyway since the brain cannot have an entirely synchronized timepiece since it must operate on a quantum level where I don't think absolute timeframes are permitted )
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    I am sorry that I find your reply (the 2nd part) a little difficult to understand.

    Could I ask you if you could give an example of any two mental or physical processes which (1) occur simultaneously and (2) can both be considered to be conscious ?

    I think what I am trying to get at is that we may think that a lot of the things we do are conscious but only one is actually conscious at any one time (maybe you appreciated that and I have just not understood your answer).

    I mean if we are carrying out a process that involves being attentive to more than one aspect can we actually focus consciously on any more than one aspect at the same time ? (Or can we say that "same time " makes no sense anyway since the brain cannot have an entirely synchronized timepiece since it must operate on a quantum level where I don't think absolute timeframes are permitted )
    Studies have been done where people both A) Read literature, while B) record commands at the same time. Take another car driving example into consideration: If you're talking on a cellphone while driving at the same time - is one of them being done unconcsiously?
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    I would have thought (just a feeling -no proof) that for the cellphone/driving that we could indeed be talking about only one of the activities being processed consciously.

    I mean both activities would only require short bursts of conscious awareness to be possible and so you could switch rapidly from one to the other without realising you were doing it.

    As to recording commands while reading I think the same applies -unless you are totally absorbed at a conscious level you would have tiny (or not so tiny ) gaps to shift your attention to another task that might (or might not ) require conscious attention.


    I was looking for a clearer example of 2 simultaneous activities that both required 100% conscious focus .
    I am sure if there was one , then it would be possible to verify whether the person was indeed able to conciously focus on 2 activities at the same time.

    In my own case I think it is impossible but I am quite prepared to accept that other people (or maybe just one person in a million) have this capacity.


    Once an activity has been completed , is there any objective way of proving one way or another that the process was conscious or unconscious (at a particular point in time) ?

    Again ,if you could visualize the stream of conscious awareness as a line or a stream going through time and were able to zoom in to a particular event would you expect to be find that the stream would be discontinuous at that level?
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    I would have thought (just a feeling -no proof) that for the cellphone/driving that we could indeed be talking about only one of the activities being processed consciously.

    I mean both activities would only require short bursts of conscious awareness to be possible and so you could switch rapidly from one to the other without realising you were doing it.

    As to recording commands while reading I think the same applies -unless you are totally absorbed at a conscious level you would have tiny (or not so tiny ) gaps to shift your attention to another task that might (or might not ) require conscious attention.


    I was looking for a clearer example of 2 simultaneous activities that both required 100% conscious focus .
    I am sure if there was one , then it would be possible to verify whether the person was indeed able to conciously focus on 2 activities at the same time.

    In my own case I think it is impossible but I am quite prepared to accept that other people (or maybe just one person in a million) have this capacity.


    Once an activity has been completed , is there any objective way of proving one way or another that the process was conscious or unconscious (at a particular point in time) ?

    Again ,if you could visualize the stream of conscious awareness as a line or a stream going through time and were able to zoom in to a particular event would you expect to be find that the stream would be discontinuous at that level?
    I would opt out for Kahneman's Model of Attention.

    Resource Allocation

    Divided attention between two tasks is definitely something we are all capable of, and we do it often. There is a problem with dual-task perfomance known as the Psychological Refractory Period, in which a response to a 2nd stimulus is slowed because the first stimulus is still being processed.

    Note the emphasis however - that it is the response processing that is slowed, not the processing of the stimulus. As though your ability to formulate a response is paused, while you're already consciously aware of the second the task. Kahneman's model seems to be able to have room for this problem, as explained by the concept of resource limitations (ie: how many of your processing faculties are being used up by any single stimulus).

    As an unrelated comment to dual-task performance, what you're suggesting sounds a lot like Broadbent's filter model - which leaves room to only process a single a stimulus at a time, (even though you're not suggesting anything as absolute, since you're stating unconcious processing must exist simultaneously).

    A lot of this however is still stuff being researched, it's just that evidence seems to be showing it's unlikely that we can only conciously attend a single stimulus at any given time.
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    Pedantic quible; I think the word you should be using is "sub conscious" not "unconscious". Unconscious means asleep or in a state like sleep, ie sedated or concussed or comatose. On the other hand it is a foundational insight of psychiatry that someting like 90% of the activity of the human mind is "sub conscious". While we may be conscious of our preference for say; blue over violet, we may likely be unaware of why we prefer blue to violet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Would I be right in supposing that anything that we do that is not performed consciously is in fact "delegated" to the unconscious part of our mind /body?
    I think it would be more accurate to say that anything that we do that is not performed subconsciously is in fact "delegated" to the conscious part of our mind /body.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    Pedantic quible; I think the word you should be using is "sub conscious" not "unconscious". Unconscious means asleep or in a state like sleep, ie sedated or concussed or comatose. On the other hand it is a foundational insight of psychiatry that someting like 90% of the activity of the human mind is "sub conscious". While we may be conscious of our preference for say; blue over violet, we may likely be unaware of why we prefer blue to violet.
    It happens to be referred to as unconscious. Subconscious is more of a colloquialism. It tends to be a 'no-no' word academically.

    Unconscious mind - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Subconscious - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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