Executive functions as a path to understanding nonhuman consciousness: Looking under the light

Gupta, Shreejata and Sinha, Anindya (2014) Executive functions as a path to understanding nonhuman consciousness: Looking under the light. In: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Consciousness and the Self. Springer, New Delhi, pp. 101-126. ISBN 978-81-322-1587-5

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Abstract: Consciousness in humans is best understood by the expression of individual goals and intentions, as expressed through language. The lack of a common language between humans and nonhuman animals and the historical tradition of attributing a mind exclusively to humans have, however, traditionally hindered the search for animal consciousness. Although conscious in the ordinary sense of wakefulness and in their ability to respond appropriately to stimuli, concrete evidence for more complex states of phenomenal or access consciousness await discovery in animals. Human behavioural expressions such as planning, monitoring, regulation of emotions, inhibition of actions, attentional flexibility, working memory, error detection, decision making and resolution of conflict, often collectively referred to as executive functions, have been considered behavioural proxies of different facets of human consciousness. These processes, the development of which correlates to the emergence of consciousness in humans, enable individuals to execute voluntary actions, make choices among alternatives and respond appropriately to novel situations to achieve short- and long-term goals. Given the history of our vain search for consciousness as a singular phenomenon in animals, we should perhaps explore the structure and organization of basic executive functions as potential building blocks of consciousness in nonhuman species. It is likely that such processes in animals differ from those in humans only in degree and not in kind and that such a functional understanding of executive functions could better illuminate the development and evolution of the conscious human mind.
Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Copyright belongs to Author
Keywords: Nonhuman consciousness
Subjects: School of Natural and Engineering Sciences > Animal Behaviour
Doctoral Programme > PhD Scholar Publications
Programmes > Consciousness Studies Programme
Programmes > Ecology, Behaviour and Conservation
Divisions: Schools > Natural Sciences and Engineering
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2015 10:43
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2021 14:53
Official URL: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9788132215868#
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    Funders: UNSPECIFIED
    Projects: UNSPECIFIED
    DOI:
    URI: http://eprints.nias.res.in/id/eprint/692

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