A Model of the hierarchy of behaviour, cognition, and consciousness

Toates, Frederick (2006). A Model of the hierarchy of behaviour, cognition, and consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition, 15(1) pp. 75–118.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2005.04.008


Processes comparable in important respects to those underlying human conscious and non-conscious processing can be identified in a range of species and it is argued that these reflect evolutionary precursors of the human processes. A distinction is drawn between two types of processing: (1) stimulus-based and (2) higher-order. For ‘higher-order’, in humans the operations of processing are themselves associated with conscious awareness. Conscious awareness sets the context for stimulus-based processing and its end-point is accessible to conscious awareness. However, the mechanics of the translation between stimulus and response proceeds without conscious control. The paper argues that higher-order processing is an evolutionary addition to stimulus-based processing. The model’s value is shown for gaining insight into a range of phenomena and their link with consciousness. These include brain damage, learning, memory, development, vision, emotion, motor control, reasoning, the voluntary versus involuntary debate and mental disorder.

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