239: Michael Graziano | Attention Schema Theory And Subjective Awareness In “Rethinking Consciousness”

How does our focused attention relate to what we call “consciousness”? What types of attention are out there, and what are the functions of each type? Professor Michael Graziano explores this and more in his book Rethinking Consciousness: A Scientific Theory of Subjective Experience.

Author Michael Graziano is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University, and he has written multiple books on neuroscience, evolution, and human nature. The Graziano Lab at Princeton focuses on the brain basis of consciousness, based on attention schema theory, which was formulated by Professor Graziano.

I talked with Professor Graziano about his book and concepts related to consciousness. The mechanistic approach he brings to the topic is something that I am able to relate with.

Show notes:

  • what Professor Graziano works on with students in the Graziano lab
  • how the brain basis of consciousness is studied, and ways that we accept consciousness as defined
  • what the attention schema theory is, and how the model has two functions for daily living
  • the way that signals compete with each other in the computational process of attention
  • how a frog’s form of attention differs from that of a person, and the types of awareness that exist
  • what “biased competition” is, and and the battle for incoming stimuli to the cortex
  • why covert and overt attention are both needed, and how they differ
  • consciousness only being present in a few types of organisms/mammals
  • the concept of affordance, and how the brain works tirelessly as a prediction machine
  • why consciousness is defined as a hard problem, and if that difficulty can be usurped with some research method

It was swell to have Professor Graziano on episode 239 of the show. You can check out his lab page at Princeton, see his research publications, or check out his book Rethinking Consciousness on Amazon.

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