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Open Access Animal Consciousness: The Interplay of Neural and Behavioural Evidence

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

We consider the relationship between neural and behavioural evidence for animal consciousness. We critically examine two recent studies: one neural and one behavioural. The first, on crows, finds different neural activity depending on whether a stimulus is reported as seen or unseen. However, to implicate this neural activity in consciousness, we must assume that a specific conditioned behaviour is a report of conscious experience. The second study, on macaques, records behaviours strikingly similar to patterns of conscious and unconscious perception in humans. However, confounds are only ruled out in human subjects, presupposing substantial neural similarity between humans and macaques. Taken together, the two studies reveal a sense in which neural and behavioural research rely on each other. Looking ahead, these two types of evidence could prove to be either mutually reinforcing or mutually undermining. The science of animal consciousness needs both neural and behavioural evidence, ideally obtained as part of a single coordinated programme.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2022

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