Theories of Consciousness: Background, Predictions and Empirical Testing
For centuries, consciousness was considered to be outside the reach of scientific investigation. Yet in recent decades, more and more studies have tried to probe the neural correlates of conscious experience, and several neuronally-inspired theories for consciousness have emerged. In this talk, I will focus on four leading theories of consciousness: Global Neuronal Workspace (GNW), integrated Information Theory (IIT), Recurrent Processing Theory (RPT) and Higher Order Theory (HOT). I will first present the guiding principles of these theories, and compare them. Then, I will present the results of a large-scale quantitative and analytic review we conducted, examining all studies that either empirically tested these theories or interpreted their findings with respect to at least one of them. The analysis provides a bird's-eye view of the field, revealing key trends in the way these theories have been examined and studied. I will then ask what would be the best way to empirically test the theories, while hopefully avoiding some of the pitfalls of previous studies in the field.