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Can We Falsify the Consciousness-Causes-Collapse Hypothesis in Quantum Mechanics?


In this paper we examine some proposals to disprove the hypothesis that the interaction between mind and matter causes the collapse of the wave function, showing that such proposals are fundamentally flawed. We then describe a general experimental setup retaining the key features of the ones examined, and show that even a more general case is inadequate to disprove the mind-matter collapse hypothesis. Finally, we use our setup provided to argue that, under some reasonable assumptions about consciousness, such hypothesis is unfalsifiable.

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  1. For extreme cases where there might be some differences, albeit not necessarily directly observable; see [8, 9] or [10].

  2. The coherent state \(|\alpha \rangle \) of a harmonic oscillator behaves, in some sense, in a similar way to its classical counterpart. For instance, its expected value also oscillates with the same frequency as a classical oscillator, and with amplitude of oscillation \(\alpha \). Coherent states are of great importance in quantum optics; see e.g. [19].

  3. Readers not familiar with fourth-order interference are encouraged to consult [23] or one of the many excellent textbooks on quantum optics, such as [24].

  4. In fact, the total number of photons reaching the participant (either human or not) is quite large, and it is not until coincidence counts are performed that this number is reduced. So, the task of reconstructing an interference pattern, even if the actual photon count per second could be reduced to a reasonable number to be dealt with, would be very time consuming and daunting.

  5. To be more precise, elements in the Hilbert space that are not entangled with the original photon state need not return to the original quantum state. Furthermore, for elements that are weakly entangled it may not be necessary to return them to the original state either, though not returning them would reduce the visibility of the quantum superposition. However, this is not essential for the arguments that follow, since the number of degrees of freedom that get entangled correspond to a macroscopic portion of the cockroach.

  6. Unless we take a panpsychist view, which would, in the case of CCCH raise other problems.


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This is a continuation of our work with Pat Suppes, who passed away in November 2014. This research was partially supported by the Patrick Suppes Gift Fund for the Suppes Brain Lab. Pat’s support to this paper is gratefully acknowledged, as well as John Perry’s hospitality while JAB visited the Center for the Explanation of Consciousness at CSLI, Stanford University, where part of this work was conducted. We also thank Henry Stapp, Bas van Fraassen, and the anonymous referees for comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to J. Acacio de Barros.

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de Barros, J.A., Oas, G. Can We Falsify the Consciousness-Causes-Collapse Hypothesis in Quantum Mechanics?. Found Phys 47, 1294–1308 (2017).

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  • Measurement problem
  • Von Neumann-Wigner interpretation
  • Collapse of the wave function
  • Fourth-order interference