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Structure, strategy and self in the fabrication of conscious experiences

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Neurophysiological and psychological evidence require us to see perception, the ‘fabrication of (conscious) experience’, as a process in time. Some of the elapsed time between the onset of stimulation and the appearance of a conscious image is accounted for by onsiderations of neural hardware. Cognitive science conventionally assumes that these structural factors are sufficient to account for the delay. However I argue in this paper that the human information processing system may interpose an additional strategic delay that allows for processes of checking and editing the developing ‘sketch’ or ‘draft’, so that elements that might threaten an underlying self system can be massaged or deleted. This cognitive model parallels that which is found in the Buddhist Abhidhamma, and improves upon the traditional, canonical formulation. Mindfulness meditation can be seen as a process of ‘attentional retraining’, in which the strategic delay is reduced through practice, and self-related assumptions, which had previously been dissolved in or pre-supposed by conscious experience, become crystallized out and capable of being problematized.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Bristol School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1JA, UK.

Publication date: February 1, 1996


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