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Commentary on Bernard Baars’ ‘in the theatre of consciousness’

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[opening paragraph]: Bernard Baars’ metaphor of the theatre of consciousness (Baars, 1997a,b) has the ability to powerfully evoke and illustrate in a single image many of the functions of the mind and the brain, both conscious and unconscious. The simplicity and sheer appeal of the image of the stage, with conscious events acted out upon it by players moving under the spotlight of attention, makes it easy to visualize, to remember, and to think about. Thus, it is richly evocative, inviting further speculation as to how the elements in front, behind, and on the stage, interact to yield the conscious experiences of daily life. I suspect that the ease and power of this metaphor will go a long way toward making the study of consciousness in psychology not only academically legitimate -- a battle we have just about won -- but something other than mush in the minds of most academic psychologists. (If the reader has any doubts about the last point, pick up any current introductory text on psychology and read the chapter on consciousness.) I believe that this metaphor will play the role for the cognitive psychology of consciousness that the Atkinson-Shiffrin stage model of memory played for the cognitive psychology of memory some decades back (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968). Like that model, it summarizes most current findings and organizes them in a fashion easily understood by a wide readership. My guess is that it will stimulate a broad range of research and scholarship during the coming years.
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Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Psychology, CPO #1960, University of North Carolina Asheville, NC 28804-8508, USA.

Publication date: 1997-04-01

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