As far as modern psychology is concerned, is there currently a standard scientific model for the conscious and unconscious mind, as well as conscious experience/perception? If so, are there any recommended resources (scientific books/articles) that detail this model?

I am currently reading The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, and while the book itself is tremendously helpful in the study and practice of mindfulness, I wanted to do some fact checking and research on the information presented in the book.

In the book John Yates describes all conscious perception, that is, visual, auditory, somatosensory, gustatory, olfactory, and mind sense (thoughts, memories, emotions) as taking on one of two qualities:

Attention: The cognitive ability to select and analyze specific information (sensory input, thoughts, memories, emotions, etc.) and ignore other information arising from a vast field of internal and external stimuli

Awareness: A general cognizance of sensory information; mental objects like thoughts, memories, and feelings; and the overall state and activity of the mind. Unlike attention which isolates and analyzes specific objects, peripheral awareness is inclusive holistic, and only minimally conceptual.

For example, in vision, objects of attention result in focused and sharper visual perception, whereas object of awareness form our periphery and are more blurry.

In the Mind-System model, Yates describes the mind as having a structure depicted in this image

Where the mind is divided into Unconscious and Conscious, and the Unconscious Mind is composed of the Sensory and Discriminating Mind.

My question to academics: does this information sound consistent with what is presented in modern day psychology & cognitive science? And where may find more academic explanation of these types of models.


I only know of one Cognitive Model dividing the unconscious and conscious mind is presented by Paul Thaghard in "Two theories of consciousness: Semantic pointer competition vs. information integration". I explain this model in layman's terms in my blog post. In this answer, I'll compare Thaghard's model to Yate's model you've presented above.

Yate's model is based on the ideas of Global Workspace Theory (GWB). GWB posits that unconscious processes compete for the spotlight of attention so that they can enter consciousness. This seems to be what Yate's is suggesting in this diagram and would tie in nicely with mindfulness meditation.

GWB isn't a bad model. It makes a few predictions and describes a lot of phenomena (comas, certain types of blindness). However, it's not easily testable or disprovable. How do these unconscious processes interact? What type of representation would unconscious processes use and how does this relate to neurons? Can I build a computation model of consciousness based off this specification? These are the things that Paul's model worries about and specifies. Paul's model is essentially a more specified version of the Yate's model. It defines a representation (Semantic Pointers) which relates to neurons and makes testable claims.

To summarize and get back to your question, Yate's model is vaguely consistent with Cognitive Science, but it is under-specified. For further reading on more specific models, check the links in this answer.


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