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Consciousness, Learning, and Control: Towards a theory

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The current talk presents an approach developed within the School of Cognitive Psychology in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This approach views mind and consciousness as attributes of the cognitive activity and the most important brain systems that manage its work. Thus, all errors that a human makes (e.g. forgetting, perceptual illusions, failure to perceive weak signals, cognitive fatigue, etc.) should be explained by the logic of cognitive functioning rather than by the restricted resources or any structural limitations in brain. The theory of consciousness and behavior must be built only in terms of logic of cognition. Current approach suggests that there are several different systems and each of them solves a different task in the process of cognition. Let us call these systems: B-system, P-system, and C-system. The B-system (a basic system) is responsible for instant processing of all incoming information: it processes all features and patterns of the incoming information. Moreover, all the steps and all the results of all the processes are being stored in memory. Instantaneous comparison of results acquired from different independent paths is impossible. P-system (a psychological system) is responsible for the results of the comparisons of the B-system outcomes. In order to verify the whether P-systems outputs are correct there must be a C-system (or Consciousness system). Consciousness receives only the final results (together with the subjectively marked signal and being aware of this information) and tests all results for discrepancies. If it finds any, it takes measures to eliminate these discrepancies (it either attempts to resolve them, or, to reduce their effect, it might simply devalue them by deeming them unimportant). This approach allows us to understand constraints of consciousness without referring to vague hypotheses of scarcity of resources and suggests new venues for future research.