Cognitive Computation

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 50–63 | Cite as

Explanatory Correlates of Consciousness: Theoretical and Computational Challenges

  • Anil Seth


Consciousness is a key feature of mammalian cognition and revealing its underlying mechanisms is one of the most important scientific challenges for the 21st century. In this article I review how computational and theoretical approaches can facilitate a transition from correlation to explanation in consciousness science. I describe progress towards identifying ‘explanatory correlates’ underlying four fundamental properties characterizing most if not all conscious experiences: (i) the co-existence of segregation and integration in conscious scenes, (ii) the emergence of a subjective first-person perspective, (iii) the presence of affective conscious contents, either transiently (emotion) or as a background (mood) and (iv) experiences of intention and agency that are characteristic of voluntary action. I also discuss how synthetic approaches can shed additional light on possible functions of consciousness, the role of embodiment in consciousness, and the plausibility of constructing a conscious artefact.


Consciousness Explanatory correlate Causal density Complexity Perspectivalness Emotion Volition Computational model Selfhood Emergence 



Preparation of this article was supported by EPSRC leadership fellowship EP/G007543/1. I am grateful to Tom Ziemke for useful comments on a first draft and to Owen Holland for Fig. 3b.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of InformaticsUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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