Friday, December 23, 2011

Consciousness and control

Fabulous video of Antonio Damasio discussing (in under 19 minutes!) "The quest to understand consciousness".

Whatever it is, without it we might as well be dead.

If we accept the idea that we need to have a conscious mind, a mind with a "self" in it, then that self illusion needs the illusion of efficacy. Which brings me to the next link, Born to choose: the origins and value of the need for control, the most interesting paper (review, pdf) I've seen today and maybe all year (free access).

"Belief in one’s ability to exert control over the environment and to produce desired results is essential for an individual’s wellbeing. It has repeatedly been argued that perception of control is not only desirable, but is also probably a psychological and biological necessity. In this article, we review the literature supporting this claim and present evidence of a biological basis for the need for control and for choice-that is, the means by which we exercise control over the environment. Converging evidence from animal research, clinical studies and neuroimaging suggests that the need for control is a biological imperative for survival, and a corticostriatal network is implicated as the neural substrate of this adaptive behavior."

The authors move through the psychosocial/behavioural evidence first, then the biological.
Therapy is all about restoring choice to patients, helping them overcome learned helplessness, no matter the level at which it was learned.

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