Property of Consciousness 3

It is fairly clear that consciousness and explicit memory have a link. Our explicit memories are exclusively memories of conscious experience and when recalled form a conscious-type experience. Forming an explicit memory appears to have at least three stages: first, forming a working memory; second, forming a temporary memory in the hippocampus system awaiting consolidation; and third, forming a long-term memory distributed in the cortex during sleep. It is working memory that is linked to consciousness and it appears to rely to some extent on specific types of cells that can sustain activity for a period of time. Working memory appears to have a limit and can hold only a few consecutive slices of consciousness at a time.

The explicit memory is either episodic or semantic. It gives a narrative to our lives and allows us to learn from experience.

Property/function of consciousness #3 – Consciousness is, or is the immediate source of, working memory and therefore of explicit memory. Explicit memory allows us to recall experience in a conscious-like holistic way. It gives a personal narrative and facilitates particular types of learning.

Here are the previous posting relating to memory and consciousness.

What goes on in dreams

Towards understanding working memory


Memories in time

Implicit and explicit memory

Keeping echoes in mind

Visual memory

There will be more on memory as I find it.

3 thoughts on “Property of Consciousness 3

  1. I am not sure that I agree with this. I had an experience a few months ago that I think contradicts it. I was driving while talking with someone (about nitric oxide and autism) and went through a stop sign because I didn’t “see” it. I did slow down and went through the intersection at a speed where if there had been a need to stop I could have. When the police turned their lights on to flag me down, I did remember that the stop sign was there, that I had seen it, but that it didn’t register.

    I admit that the image of the stop sign was only in my working memory for a short time, but it was there and had not registered in my consciousness until after I had been stopped. I think I do remember things that have not registered in my consciousness, this happens to be a good recent example.

    JanetK: Very interesting. I do not remember such an incidence myself nor can I remember someone else talking about one. That doesn’t mean much, except that it would be fairly rare. So far I can think of only a few explanations.

    One - it was as you thought, the sign was in your memory but not in your consciousness.

    Two – you were familiar with the intersection and so, when reminded by the police lights that there was a stop sign, you imagined it accurately as if you had just seen it.

    Three – on seeing the police light you tried to identify what you could have done wrong and this generated a fringe qualia of familiarity (like deja vu).

    Four – you had the sign in your consciousness but not in your focus of attention, so when the question became suddenly important, your attention shifted to it.

    It would be interesting to know if the exact circumstances make any of these impossible.

  2. It was an intersection I was familiar with (for 30 years), but not one I had used frequently, maybe a handful of times in the past few years. There was extensive remodeling of that intersection which would have changed the location of any stop sign. The intersection may have started out as a “yield” intersection when I first used it.

    I don’t have a good visual memory for details like that, so I can’t really remember that there is a stop sign there even now. I know there is one, but not because I remember a visual image.

    When I saw the police lights the stop sign was no longer in my visual field of view. I am sure that when I saw the lights I tried to figure out what was the cause and the image of the stop sign popped into my mind.

    When I see a movie, I can’t discuss it immediately. It takes a while for it to become consolidated in memory in a way that I can access it, which is as a sequential series of events. There is a great deal of detail that is available to me later after it consolidates that is not available to me immediately after seeing it. I simply presume that many other aspects of life are the same way but they are not as apparent because the experience of a movie is something that can be easily shared (and so compared) in ways that other experiences in life cannot be.

    In other words a lot of what I can eventually remember wasn’t in consciousness for a significant period of time.

    JanetK: Very, very interesting. I hope that others, if they have had similar experiences, will put in a comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *