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Perception, conscious and unconscious processes

  • Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch

Abstract

This chapter outlines Freud’s conceptions of the mind and focuses on his understanding of consciousness and perception and of the unconscious mind. It also considers and discusses current debates on this topic in philosophy and cognitive science.

In philosophy perception and consciousness have often been conflated. In the wake of neuropsychological studies of brain-damaged patients and subliminality studies, the assumption that perception and consciousness of perception are always inseparable had to be revised. Several neuropsychological syndromes clearly involve dissociations between perception (mostly vision) and awareness of perception, examples of which are blindsight, covert recognition of faces in prosopagnosia, unconscious perception of neglected stimuli, and implicit reading in alexia. In the case of these examples, all of the respective brain-damaged patients are processing visual information without the conscious experience of vision. Accordingly, after having successfully completed an experimental task by indirect testing they each claim to be merely “guessing”. However, their non-conscious vision is latently rather than dynamically unconscious. Although the latent unconscious activity functions more or less like conscious activities do, it lacks awareness (for example, a latent unconscious perception is a non-conscious or a weak form of conscious perception; the dynamic unconscious is psychological, active, and can be different in character from conscious psychological processes). The impact of the dynamic unconscious on human mind and behavior is one of the main tenets of Freud’s theory of the unconscious.

That is why subliminality studies raises additional challenging questions for cognitive neurobiology and cognitive psychology with regard to the understanding of unconscious dynamic processes. Experiments on subliminality suggest that the unconscious clinically described by dynamic psychiatry and psychoanalysis is indeed experimentally observable, and that it is in fact possible to investigate unconscious conflict, unconscious affect, and unconscious anxiety in a well controlled manner.

Keywords

Binocular Rivalry Phenomenal Consciousness Procedural Memory Topographical Model Unconscious Process 
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.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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