Conscious Awareness and Learning from Experience

Most of the time, humans are conscious: we don’t just respond to stimuli and make decisions, we’re also subjectively aware of what we’ve seen, what decisions we’ve made, and what actions we’ve taken.

Studying how consciousness works scientifically is hard, but there are some key questions we can ask. Notably, the brain can do all kinds of information processing unconsciously. In this project, working with Professors Nick Shea and Chris Frith at the University of London Institute of Philosophy, we asked what do we need conscious awareness for?

We were interested in whether there are things we can do consciously - using information we’re consciously aware of - that we can’t do unconciously - using information that the brain processes, but does not bring to conscious awareness. We looked in particular at learning: whether people can learn through experience about things they’ve seen, but weren’t aware of seeing.

Senior Research Scientist