Foundations of Physics

, Volume 31, Issue 10, pp 1465–1499 | Cite as

Quantum Theory and the Role of Mind in Nature

  • Henry P. Stapp


Orthodox Copenhagen quantum theory renounces the quest to understand the reality in which we are imbedded, and settles for practical rules describing connections between our observations. Many physicist have regarded this renunciation of our effort describe nature herself as premature, and John von Neumann reformulated quantum theory as a theory of an evolving objective universe interacting with human consciousness. This interaction is associated both in Copenhagen quantum theory and in von Neumann quantum theory with a sudden change that brings the objective physical state of a system in line with a subjectively felt psychical reality. The objective physical state is thereby converted from a material substrate to an informational and dispositional substrate that carries both the information incorporated into it by the psychical realities, and certain dispositions for the occurrence of future psychical realities. The present work examines and proposes solutions to two problems that have appeared to block the development of this conception of nature. The first problem is how to reconcile this theory with the principles of relativistic quantum field theory; the second problem is to understand whether, strictly within quantum theory, a person's mind can affect the activities of his brain, and if so how. Solving the first problem involves resolving a certain non-locality question. The proposed solution to the second problem is based on a postulated connection between effort, attention, and the quantum Zeno effect. This solution explains on the basic of quantum physics a large amount of heretofore unexplained data amassed by psychologists.


Physical State Field Theory Quantum Field Theory Quantum Theory Relativistic Quantum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Physics Today, “Nonlocality gets more real,” December 1998, p. 9.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    W. Tittle, J. Brendel, H. Zbinden, and N. Gisin, “Violation of Bell inequalities by photons more than l0 km apart,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 81, 3563 (1998).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    W. Tittle, J. Brendel, H. Zbinden, and N. Gisin, “Long-distance Bell-type tests using energy-time entangled photons,” Phys. Rev. A 59, 4150 (1999).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    N. Bohr, “Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?” Phys. Rev. 48, 696 (1935).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    P. A. M. Dirac, at d1927 Solvay Conference, in Electrons et photons: Rapports et Discussions du cinquieme Conseil de Physique (Gauthier-Villars, Paris, 1928).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    W. Heisenberg, “The representation of nature in contemporary physics,” Daedalus 87, 95–108 (1958).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    A. Einstein, B. Podolsky, and N. Rosen, “Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?” Phys. Rev. 47, 777 (1935).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    N. Bohr, “Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?” Phys. Rev. 48, 696 (1935).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    A. Einstein, in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Physicist, P. A. Schilpp, ed. (Tudor, New York, 1951), p. 669.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    M. Gell-Mann, in The Nature of the Physical Universe: the 1976 Nobel Conference (Wiley, New York, 1979), p. 29.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    J. von Neumann, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1955), translation from the 1932 German original.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    N. Bohr, Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge (Wiley, New York, 1958), pp. 88 and 72.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    W. Pauli, quotations in Chap. 7 of Ref. 27.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a further development of von Neumann' ideas, see: F. London and E. Bauer, La theorie de l'observation en mechanique quantique (Hermann, Paris, 1939). (Translated into English and included in the anthology of Wheeler and Zurek.)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Eugene Wigner, “Remarks on the mind-body problem,” Symmetries and Reflections (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1967), Chap. 13.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    S. Tomonaga, “On a relativistically invariant formulation of the quantum theory of wave fields,” Prog. Theoret. Phys. 1, 27 (1946).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    J. Schwinger, “The theory of quantized fields, I,” Phys. Rev. 82, 914 (1951).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    G. F. Smoot et al., “Structure in the COBE differential microwave radiometer first-year maps,” Astrophys. J. 396, L1 (1992).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    J. S. Bell, “On the Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox,” Physics 1, 195 (1964); Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics (Cambridge University Press, 1987), Chap. 4. J. Clauser and A. Shimony, Rep. Prog. Phys. 41, 1881 (1978). A. Shimony, “Contextual hidden-variable theories” in Br. J. Phil. Sci. 35, 25 (1984); Search for a Naturalistic World View II (Cambridge University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    H. Stapp, “Non local character of quantum theory,” Epist. Lett., June 1978. (Assoc. F. Gonseth, Case Postal 1081, Bienne, Switzerland); Colloquium on Bell' Theorem: March 3–4, 1978.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    A Fine, “Hidden-variables, joint probabilities, and the Bell Inequalities,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 48, 291 (1982).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    N. Bohr, Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge (Wiley, New York, 1958) p.72.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    L. Hardy, “Nonlocality for two particles without inequalities for almost all entangled states,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 71, 1665 (1993). A. White, D. F. V. James, P. Eberhard, and P. G. Kwiat,“Nonmaximally entangled states: production, characterization, and utilization,” Phys. Rev. Lett., 83, 3103 (1999).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    A. Shimony and H. Stein, “On Stapp's ‘nonlocal character of quantum theory’,” Am. J. Phys. 69, 845 (2001).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    H. Stapp, “Reply to “On Stapp's ‘nonlocal character of quantum theory’,” Am. J. Phys. 69, 854 (2001).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    M. Tegmark, “The importance of quantum decoherence in brain process,” Phys. Rev. E 61, 4194–4206 (2000).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    H. Stapp, Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics (Springer, New York, Berlin. 1993), p. 152 and Chap. VI.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    H. Stapp, “The importance of quantum decoherence in brain process,” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report LBNL-46871; quant-ph/0010029.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    H. Stapp, “Whiteheadian process and quantum theory of mind,” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report LBNL-42143;'tapp/stappfiles.html.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    H. Stapp, “Attention, intention, and will in quantum physics,” J. Consciousness Studies 6, 143 (1999); quant-ph/9905054.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Wm. James, Psychology: The Briefer Course, Gordon Allport, ed. (University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN), Chaps. 4 and 17.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Harold Pashler, The Psychology of Attention (MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1998).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry P. Stapp
    • 1
  1. 1.Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley

Personalised recommendations