Mind & Language symposium: Consciousness, Information and the Visual Streams

Visit the Brains blog over the next couple of weeks to take part in a symposium on Wayne Wu’s “Against Division: Consciousness, Information and the Visual Streams”. Commentaries by David Kaplan (Macquarie), Pete Mandik (William Paterson), and Thomas Schenk (Erlangen-Nuremberg).

Wu’s article has just been published in the September 2014 issue of Mind & Language and is free to access until the end of the year.

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wu[1]According to the influential dual systems model of visual processing (Milner & Goodale 1995/2006, Goodale & Milner 2004), information present in the dorsal processing stream does not contribute to the specific contents of conscious visual experience. “Visual phenomenology,” A.D. Milner and Melvyn Goodale write, “can arise only from processing in the ventral stream, processing that we have linked with recognition and perception…. Visual-processing modules in the dorsal stream, despite the complex computations demanded by their role in the control of action, are not normally available to awareness” (Milner & Goodale 1995/2006, 202). In his article, Wayne argues that certain types of information arising in the dorsal stream, contrary to Milner and Goodale, do play a role in realizing the contents of visual experience. In particular, he argues that information carried in dorsal stream areas such as VIP and LIP support awareness of visual spatial constancy across saccadic eye-movements. Wayne also adduces evidence that dorsal stream areas play a role in conscious visual motion and depth perception.

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Words, words, words . . .

A recent study by the University of California, San Diego, estimates that the total amount of words “consumed” in the United States – where this consumption is from televisions, computers and other media and does not include people simply talking to one another – has more than doubled from 4,500 trillion in 1980 to 10,845 trillion in 2008. If images are added to the approximately 100,500 words per day we are exposed to, then it is estimated that we are bombarded with the equivalent of 34 gigabytes of information each day. You can read more about the study here.

Some academics are worrying about the possible adverse effects of this deluge of information. The psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowell, an expert on attention-deficit disorder, has suggested that people who spend too much time on their laptops and Blackberrys “are so busy processing information from all directions they are losing the tendency to think and to feel… People are sacrificing depth and feeling and becoming cut off and disconnected from other people.” Other researchers, however, dismiss such concerns. According to Amanda Ellison, of Durham University’s neuroscience research unit: “it is quite difficult to actually overload the brain because it can contain a lot more information than was previously thought.” She also points out that: “There is no one memory centre. Visual information is stored in one part of the brain and audio information is stored in another.”
Continue reading “Words, words, words . . .”