Metaphors for consciousness

There was another thing that really caught my eye in Baars and McGovern, Cognitive views of consciousness: What are the facts? How can we explain them? (here) They give a list of metaphors that have been used over the years for consciousness.


1.      The Threshold Metaphor – a stimulus above a certain value automatically enters consciousness.

2.      The Tip-of-the-Iceberg Metaphor – consciousness emerges from the bulk of unconscious processes.

3.      The Novelty Metaphor – consciousness is concerned with what is new or unexpected.

4.      The integration Metaphor – sensory data is passes from low-level processes to higher-level ones and consciousness is the highest and most integration perceptions.

5.      The Executive Metaphor – consciousness produces the ‘self’ that is controlling.

6.      The Searchlight Metaphor – the focus of attention is basic to consciousness.

7.      The Theater in the Society of Mind Metaphor – access by all parts of the brain to shared information is the function of consciousness.


All of these metaphors have more than a large grain the truth to them, or they would not have lasted so long. But they also each have gaps and problems.


What I noticed, of course, was that my favorite metaphor was missing.

8.   The Working Model Metaphor – consciousness is the best-fit scenario of the information available to the brain to model reality.


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