These three topics—consciousness, awareness, and attention— are related to acquisition and study of subjective data. (Pace quibbles that all data are perceptions and that perceptions are intrinsically subjective.) To start this topic off, I will try to justify the distinctions that I make between them. I will follow up by reviewing a recent publication by Tim Carey.
In brief, this is my current sense of these three terms:
- Attention, in its most obvious, observable, and sometimes quantifiable sense, is the directing of sensory organs to specific parts or aspects of the environment so that higher-level perceptual input functions receive input required for control. Less obvious is the directing of attention within the universe of constructed perceptions at higher levels: from one sensory modality to another; within the universe of perception for a given modality (i.e. foveal vs. one place or another in peripheral vision, one place or another in auditory space, tactile, kinesthetic, proprioceptive, etc.); among remembered and imagined perceptions (the distinction is dubious); among abstract objects in conceptual space; and probably more. Means for the former are obvious: the directing of sensory organs toward some source of perceptual input vs. others. Means for shifting attention internally are entirely obscure and so far PCT has no account for it.
If the system commanding inputs ‘knows’ where those inputs come from, it might send location-relationship references to motor systems that direct sensory organs. If it does not, it might control sequences of locations by such means, ‘questing’ for inputs.
It is possible to direct attention to one or another configuration in peripheral vision without redirecting the eyes. It is possible to direct attention to one or another source of sound in the auditory field, distinguished spatially or distinguished in the auditory spectrum, without moving the head or in any way redirecting the ears. It is possible to direct attention to one or another transition, configuration, sensation, or intensity in the somatic hierarchy to which we ordinarily do not attend and of which we are usually unaware. It is possible to attend to one or another feature of a sequence, plan, principle, or systems concept in a space of such non-environmental objects. About all of these, there are unanswered, investigable questions as to the nature of attention beyond its fundamental sense of the directing of sensory organs toward commanded perceptual input.
- Awareness is a consequence of attention. To use a currently accepted dormitive principle, attention ‘increases the salience’ of a perception. Perceptions which are not attended to are subliminal: below the limen or threshold of awareness.
- Consciousness encompasses subliminal and supraliminal (attended) perceptions. Since Freud’s ground-breaking case studies a century ago, disclosing the existence and importance of subconscious motivations, subliminal perceptions in the aggregate are called “the subconscious”.
Many phenomena await PCT comprehension and research, such as hypnosis, subconscious motivations (subliminal control of perceptions that may be subliminal or may even be in awareness), modes of persuasion and influence by disturbing subliminal control, etc.
Now, some relevant excerpts from the CSGnet archive, which can be followed up by going to the CSGnet Archive category and searching on subject headings, date tags, etc. that occur in these excerpts.
I proposed a meaning for consciousness: the combination of awareness with
perceptions in the hierarchy.