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Studying the functions of consciousness: what we know and what we want to know

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Generations of scholars of different disciplines have struggled with the mystery of conscious awareness. How does it come about? And, no less importantly, what does it do? To meet the challenge of scientifically operationalizing this question, different experimental manipulations have been developed. With these methods, researchers managed to demonstrate surprisingly high-level forms of unconscious processing, like semantic integration, executive control, emotional judgments, reading and arithmetic operations. Consequently, some have suggested that consciousness may not hold any unique functional role. In this talk, I will present experiments which employ such methods, and point out their implications and limitations. I will then introduce our search for new means to probe unconscious processes, specifically targeting consciousness’ role in integration of information and in action.

Bio: Dr. Liad Mudrik started her academic career as student of the interdisciplinary program for outstanding students. She completed two Ph.D. dissertations at Tel Aviv University: her Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience (psychology department; supervisors: Dominique Lamy and Leon Deouell) focused on the role of consciousness and attention in processing contextual violations. Her Ph.D. in philosophy (superior: Marcello Dascal) was a descriptive-deconstructive analysis of the mind-body problem in neuroscience. She then continued to a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. In 2015, she began her appointment as a faculty member in Tel Aviv University’s school of psychological science and the Sagol school of neuroscience. Her lab studies the neural bases of high-level cognition, focusing on conscious experience and cognitive effects on perception.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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