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In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind Paperback – November 8, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0195147032 ISBN-10: 0195147030 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (November 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195147030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195147032
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.8 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #879,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"An impressive tour, centered around the question of what we might be able to discover scientifically regarding the role played by conscious experience in the functioning of the mind."--Brian D. Josephson, Nobel Laureate in Physics


About the Author


Bernard J. Baars is at the Wright Institute, in Berkeley, California. He is co-editor of the journal Consciousness and Cognition and author of A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness, of which Daniel C. Dennett wrote, "For those who want to join the race to model consciousness, this is the starting line."

Customer Reviews

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READ YOURSELF My short description can by no way give an adequate impression of this wonderful book.
Dr. Gerd Doeben-Henisch
This book is a fascinating, intellectually-stimulating journey, and is "must reading" for anyone seriously studying cognitive neuroscience or the philosophy of mind.
Steven H Propp
Thank you, Dr. Baars, for writing a very good summary of what cognitive psychology offers to the field of consciousness studies.
James Gerofsky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Bernard Baars presents a highly readable account of his Global Workspace (GW) theory of consciousness. The GW is a cognitive architecture model that is based on a simple, theater metaphor. Briefly, it imagines that consciousness occurs on a center stage. The stage is equivalent to a working memory buffer. Conscious experience consists of a spotlight area on this stage. The spotlight is shifted, to illuminate various contents, according to both involuntary and voluntary forms of attentional control. The players that compete (and cooperate) for access to the stage include the variety of exteroceptive senses, interoceptive senses, and more abstract ideas. The theater stage has a limited capacity, but it creates vast access, by broadcasting information to a variety of unconscious routines and effectors (the audience). A variety of context operators also work `behind the scenes' to provide the necessary stage backdrops.

In this short and concise book, Baars devotes a chapter to each of the components of the theater metaphor. While the GW theory of consciousness is a cognitive model, Baars also delves a little into brain anatomy. He pays some attention, for example, to the Extended Reticular-Thalamic Activating System (ERTAS).

One of the things not fully addressed by Baars in his model is the subjective nature of consciousness. For example, with any conscious experience, there is a sense of self in the act of knowing. Baars makes no mention of the work of Damasio on the primitive self-representational mechanisms in the brain, though he does develop to some extent, his own idea of `self as deep context'.

Baars believes that the way to make progress on the issue of consciousness is by gathering empirical evidence.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By James Gerofsky on October 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I became interested in "philosophy of mind" several years ago and have since read a variety of books dealing with the mind-body-consciousness problem. "In The Theater of Consciousness" was my first read from the field of cognitive psychology. And a good read it was. It provides a concise yet comprehensive review of what can be said about human consciousness from the empirical perspective. This book is ten years old now and obviously misses a decade of new research. But I suspect that most of what Bernard Baars presents is still relevant, and provides a good foundation for what cognitive psychology is doing these days. It also helps to enhance one's understanding of what the neuroscientists and artificial intelligence people are up to.

In evaluating a technical book intended for a lay audience, the author's attitude towards his or her readership is very important to me. Dr. Baars displays a very considerate attitude. He provides a lot of drawings, conceptual diagrams, try-it-yourself exercises, and even a few brain scan photos (quite impressive for 1997; were the book to be re-issued today, it could include a lot more of these, given the progress made in neuro-scanning since then). In the Epilogue, Dr. Baars expresses his gratitude "to the reader who has come this far on our shared journey". My goodness, an academic doyen who actually thanks the layman for reading his book! That's quite rare (and quite refreshing).

Dr. Baars' "theater spotlight" and "global workspace" metaphors for consciousness and its relationship to unconscious processes (and even to neuron-level workings) are indeed very useful and thought-provoking. This book will indeed help you to understand why your mind does what it does.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Camara on February 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think it is fair to say that Baar's global workspace model is the most influential cognitive model of consciousness out there. The theoretical work is simply outstanding. Few would today contest the main idea behind the model -that the function of consciousness is to broadcast information to separate functional modules all arround the brain-. Some recent papers by Baars, available on line, summarize all the emirical evidence that has appeared the last decade in favour of the model. Baars is currently at the neurosciences institute, headed by Gerald Edelman, and it is no surprise his latest views seem to include reentrant connectivity and Edelman and Tononis concept of complexity. However, although this is clearly a step forward, it is far from being a THE answer consciousness studies is looking for. Baars himself sees a gap between the cognitive model and the neurophysiological machanisms involved. He has presented the ERTAS model, but it is not clear how it has stood to recent neuroscience. I'm not saying i'ts been falsified, but it has been deprived of supremacy. However, the global workspace is still a brilliant contribution to the study of consciousness. Some philosophical nuances are still roaming, however. There is no qualia in the theather, and it is not clear how the audience could be conscious..how would they enjoy the show?.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
What is consciousness? Or at least how does it work? Historically, the last individual to seriously address these questions was the great American philosopher William James, who in his seminal tome 'Principles of Psychology' (1890) outlined the essentials of a fairly comprehensive 'stream of consciousness' theory. But for most of the twentieth century the hard-problem of consciousness was either studiously avoided or redefined as something else. But in recent years with the demise of Behaviorism and its repressive dogma, groups calling themselves Cognitivist Psychologists have emerged who are resurrecting the pioneering work begun by James over 100 years ago. For serious readers interested in 'getting their feet wet' in the relatively new field of Cognitivism, Dr. Bernard Baars' highly readable book 'In the Theater of Consciousness' would serve as an excellent introduction. I have to rate it 5 STARS. Also, if this book whets your appetite for more, you may want to consider Baars' more rigorous 'A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness' where his global workspace theory is more fully developed.
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More About the Author

Please see my Wikipedia entry (under Bernard J. Baars) and my basic theoretical ideas about consciousness under Global Workspace Theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Baars

I'm an experimental psychologist by training, and early on became deeply committed to understanding the fundamental questions of consciousness, volition, and self. When I got started that was not really allowed in academic psychology, but I persisted, and was able to make a difference over a long period of time. Currently we are seeing a historic wave of brain and psychological findings on those topics, which is so big that nobody is really keeping up with it all. However, with Dr. Nicole Gage, I've written an introductory college textbook that I believe does as good a job as possible, called "Cognition, Brain & Consciousness: An Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience." (Elsevier, Inc., Academic Press, 2007; 2nd edition is now in press). I've also written a general audience book called "In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind". (Oxford University Press, 1997), and other works.

If the Amazon Kindle program works, I might do some Kindle publishing soon!

I am also interested in "higher" states, in altered mind and brain states, and in all the varieties of conscious and unconscious phenomena. It's a huge field, but we are learning a great deal. So we do our best to make sense out of it all; it's a tremendous amount of fun!

My co-editor Nicole Gage and I are very interested in hearing from instructors who are using, or considering our textbook. We ***NEED*** your input! If you are interested in consciousness from an up-to-date scientific point of view, you might consider our University of Arizona WebCourse, through the Center for Consciousness Studies, the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Thank you very much!

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