Connecting conscious and unconscious processing Axel Cleeremans ULB 2014 04

Cleeremans, A. (in press). Connecting conscious and unconscious processing. Cognitive Science.

Consciousness remains a mystery — “a phenomenon that people don’t know how to think about —yet” (Dennett, 1991, p. 21). Here, I consider how the connectionist perspective on information processing may help us progress towards the goal of understanding the computational principles through which conscious and unconscious processing differ. I begin by delineating the conceptual challenges associated with classical approaches to cognition insofar as understanding unconscious information processing is concerned, and to highlight several contrasting computational principles that are constitutive of the connectionist approach. This leads me to suggest that conscious and unconscious processing are fundamentally connected, that is, rooted in the very same computational principles. I further develop a perspective according to which the brain continuously and unconsciously learns to redescribe its own activity itself based on on constant interaction with itself, with the world, and with other minds. The outcome of such interactions is the emergence of internal models that are metacognitive in nature and that function so as it make it possible for an agent to develop a (limited, implicit, practical) understanding of itself. In this light, plasticity and learning are constitutive of what makes us conscious, for it is in virtue of our own experiences with ourselves and with other people that our mental life acquires its subjective character. The connectionist framework continues to be uniquely positioned in the Cognitive Sciences to address the challenge of identifying what one could call the “computational correlates of consciousness” (Mathis & Mozer, 1996) because it makes it possible to focus on the mechanisms through which information processing takes place.

On the other side of the mirror: Priming in cognitive and social psychology Axel Cleeremans ULB 2014 04

Doyen, S., Klein, O., Simons, D.J., & Cleeremans, A. (in press). On the other side of the mirror: Priming in cognitive and social psychology. Social Cognition.

Over the past several years, two largely separate traditions have collided, leading to controversy over claims about priming. We describe and contrast the main accounts of priming effects in cognitive and social psychology, focusing especially on the role of awareness. In so doing, we consider one of the core points of contention, claims about the effects of subliminal priming. Whereas cognitive psychologists often are interested in exploring how priming operates with and without awareness, social psychologists more commonly assume subliminality in order to bolster claims about the automaticity of priming. We discuss the criteria necessary to claim that a stimulus was processed entirely without awareness, noting the challenges in meeting those criteria. Finally, we identify three sources of conflict between the fields: awareness, replicability, and the nature of the underlying processes. We close by proposing resolutions for each of them.

The graded and dichotomous nature of visual awareness Axel Cleeremans ULB 2014 04

Windey, B., Vermeiren, A., Atas, A., & Cleeremans, A. (2014). The graded and dichotomous nature of visual awareness. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 369: 20130282

Is our visual experience of the world graded or dichotomous? Opposite pre- theoretical intuitions apply in different cases. For instance, when looking at a scene, one has a distinct sense that our experience has a graded character: one cannot say that there is no experience of contents that fall outside the focus of attention, but one cannot say that there is full awareness of such contents either. By contrast, when performing a visual detection task, our sense of having perceived the stimulus or not exhibits a more dichoto- mous character. Such issues have recently been the object of intense debate because different theoretical frameworks make different predictions about the graded versus dichotomous character of consciousness. Here, we review both relevant empirical findings as well as the associated theories (i.e. local recurrent processing versus global neural workspace theory). Next, we attempt to reconcile such contradictory theories by suggesting that level of processing is an often-ignored but highly relevant dimension through which we can cast a novel look at existing empirical findings. Thus, using a range of different stimuli, tasks and subjective scales, we show that proces- sing low-level, non-semantic content results in graded visual experience, whereas processing high-level semantic content is experienced in a more dichotomous manner. We close by comparing our perspective with existing proposals, focusing in particular on the partial awareness hypothesis.

Expert Meeting on Animal Cognition Meeting Program Axel Cleeremans ULB 2014 01  
COOL Annual Report #1 (2013) Axel Cleeremans ULB 2014 01  
COOL2 WP7 update Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 11

An update on WP7 progress.

COOL2 Admin Meeting Minutes Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 11

The minutes of the COOL2 Administrative meeting, composed by Tom Beckers.

Repeating a strongly masked stimulus increases priming and awareness Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 11

Atas, A., Vermeiren, A., & Cleeremans, A. (2013). Repeating a strongly masked stimulus increases priming and awareness. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 1422-1430.

Previous studies [Marcel, A. J. (1983). Conscious and unconscious perception: Experiments on visual masking and word recognition. Cognitive Psychology, 15(2), 197–237; Wentura, D., & Frings, C. (2005). Repeated masked category primes interfere with related exemplars: New evidence for negative semantic priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31(1), 108–120] suggested that repeatedly presenting a masked stimulus improves priming without increasing perceptual awareness. However, neural the- ories of consciousness predict the opposite: Increasing bottom-up strength in such a par- adigm should also result in increasing availability to awareness. Here, we tested this prediction by manipulating the number of repetitions of a strongly masked digit. Our results do not replicate the dissociation observed in previous studies and are instead sug- gestive that repeating an unconscious and attended masked stimulus enables the progres- sive emergence of perceptual awareness.

Nonconscious learning from crowded sequences Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 11

Atas, A., Faivre, N., Timmermans, B., Cleeremans, A., & Kouider, S. (in press). Nonconscious learning from crowded sequences. Psychological Science.

Can people learn complex information without conscious awareness? Implicit learning—learning without awareness of what has been learned—has been the focus of intense investigation over the last 50 years. However, it remains controversial whether complex knowledge can be learned implicitly. In the research reported here, we addressed this challenge by asking participants to differentiate between sequences of symbols they could not perceive consciously. Using an operant-conditioning task, we showed that participants learned to associate distinct sequences of crowded (nondiscriminable) symbols with their respective monetary outcomes (reward or punishment). Overall, our study demonstrates that sensitivity to sequential regularities can arise through the nonconscious temporal integration of perceptual information.

Kick-off Meeting Program Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 02

The program of the first Kick-off Meeting.

Kick-off Cleeremans 2 Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 02  
Kick-off Cleeremans 1 Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 02  
Kick-off Cleeremans General Introduction Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 02

This .pdf file is the general introduction to the project, as presented by Axel Cleeremans at the beginning of the kick-off meeting.

Kick-off Content Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 02  
BELSPO-DirectivesNL Axel Cleeremans ULB 2013 02  


Mechanisms of conscious and unconscious learning