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Cognition and consciousness

Chapter 3 presents the Cognition and Consciousness aspects of the brain.

Consciousness arises from the totality of experiences and perceptions stored in the brain, as well as from a person's self-perception. It is a complex function, still not fully understood, superior to cognition. The term knowledge includes all information processing processes in higher organisms. It is considered to be a unique advancement for the human species. However, it is assumed that consciousness is not limited to purely neurally stored information. It is questioned whether machines with the same knowledge content as the human brain could also develop consciousness. 

Consciousness is also assumed to be related to the underlying experiences and emerges during the experience as a totality of the associated perceptual process. Through conscious thinking, a person is able to control their own cognitive processes and thus actively influence the thought process. In the typical perception/reaction pattern of our behaviour, consciousness plays a major role. However, many reaction processes actually occur subconsciously or unconsciously. Although people think they can consciously control their behaviour, much of their behaviour is controlled by unconscious processes. While the conscious processes of thinking and planning are serial and therefore slowed down, the unconscious processes are automated and run in parallel. Thus, they are significantly faster, more complex and require almost no working memory.


Processes of perception

How sensory data is transformed into perception is an extremely complex process that has not yet been fully elucidated by brain research. As soon as sensory stimuli reach us, our brain examines the received information in fractions of a second. It discards, evaluates and pre-selects them so that possible storage works faster. All this happens, of course, against the background of the person's experiences, feelings and attention.


Attention describes a complex function of our brain and is often equated with concentration. However, the term attention is also used in different contexts. Direct attention describes a state of general readiness to react, selective attention controls the processing of sensory stimuli, and divided attention describes the brain's ability to process information from different sources in parallel.

Self-perception and reflection

Well-developed self-observation and self-evaluation are important for learning success. People are able to reflect on themselves and their actions. How confidently and to what extent self-evaluation and self-reflection function appears to be controlled by the prefrontal cortex. Research teams have discovered physiological correlations between why some people are good at self-observation and why others are less effective at self-evaluation.

Controlled and automated processes

Humans have two different mechanisms available for executing voluntary movements: Feedback movements are characterised by maximum control and are normally used for unlearned movements. On the other hand, automatic feed-forward movements are characterised by maximum efficiency and are used for learned movements.


The term "behaviour" describes a basic pattern of our brain, with a reaction based on a perception. The term behaviour thus also defines the interaction of a person with the environment. This interaction can be understood physically as well as psychologically.

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