Resolving conflicting intentions


ScienceDaily reported (here) on a study by E. Morsella, The Essence of Conscious Conflict: Subjective Effects of Sustaining Incompatible Intentions.

“The results demonstrated that merely preparing to perform an incompatible action, for example preparing to move simultaneously left and right, triggered stronger changes in awareness than preparing to perform a compatible action or experiencing a conflict that does not engage the muscles that move our bodies.”

Projecting our actions into the near future would be a good way to identify impossible combinations of actions. Heightened awareness of these conflicts would highlight the problems. Morsella proposes a theory which predicts that the primary role of consciousness is to bring together competing demands on skeletal muscle.

“If the brain is like a set of computers that control different tasks, consciousness is the Wi-Fi network that allows different parts of the brain to talk to each other and decide which action ‘wins’ and is carried out… The study finds that we are only aware of competing actions that involve skeletal muscles that voluntarily move parts of the body, the bicep for example, rather than the muscles in the digestive tract or the iris of the eye….The results give credence to an interesting idea that ‘thinking is for doing,’ a framework psychologists are using to explore the link among consciousness, perception and action.”

One thought on “Resolving conflicting intentions

  1. Hello Janet!

    I just stumbled upon your blog and find it very interesting to say the least. Hope you don’t mind if I drop by again. I’m going to think about the concept of consciousness as a connector between the mind and action. We have a different perspective on this in the martial arts, but I’d like to learn more of youjr thoughts on this issue. It would be nice to find more thoughtful work like yours on the net.

    JanetK: Rick, I am glad you find the blog interesting. I do a new post every third day, usually quite short and I try to vary the subject, although it is always some aspect of consciousness.

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