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In the theatre of working memory of the brain

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The target article by Bernard Baars (1997b) presents a quick way of grasping the gist of his book In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind, published recently (Baars, 1997a). The metaphor of consciousness as a theatre has a long history. A prototype of the theatre model may be traced back to Plato's Allegory of the Cave, in which we are like prisoners living in a cave just observing the shadows of reality. The modern theatre model insists on consciousness being under the control of attention by introducing a searchlight metaphor (Crick, 1984; Baars, 1988). The target article explores some evidence from the viewpoint of Global Workspace (GW) theory by using a method of ‘contrastive analysis’. According to this theory, GW works as the publicity organ of the brain and has a facility for accessing, disseminating, and exchanging information, and for exercizing global coordination and control (Baars, 1997b). Baars describes his GW as a theatre. ‘As the house lights begin to dim and the audience falls silent, a single spotlight pierces the descending darkness, until only one bright spot, shining on stage, remains visible. You know that the audience, actors, stagehands, and spotlight operators are there, working together under invisible direction and guided by an unknown script, to present the flow of visible events on stage. As the house lights dim, only the focal contents of consciousness remain. Everything else is in darkness’ (Baars, 1997a, p. 41). According to GW theory, a theatre stage with a bright spot is just a working memory. So I would like to comment on some general characteristics of the working memory and related spotlight problem.
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Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, Graduate School of Letters Kyoto University,Kyoto 606, Japan.

Publication date: 1997-04-01

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