When the time comes to physically act on a decision, various unconscious processes deliver their opinions to a central “hub,” like voters congregating at town hall. The hub listens in on the conversation, but doesn’t participate; all it does is provide a venue for differing opinions to integrate and decide on a final outcome.
In a provocative new paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a team led by Dr. Ezequiel Morsella at San Francisco State University came to a startling conclusion: consciousness is no more than a passive machine running one simple algorithm — to serve up what’s already been decided, and take credit for the decision.
Rather than a sage conductor, it’s just a tiny part of what happens in the brain that makes us “aware.” All the real work goes on under the hood — in our unconscious minds.
The Passive Frame Theory, as Morsella calls it, is based on decades of experimental data observing how people perceive and generate motor responses to odors. It’s not about perception (“I smell a skunk”), but about response (running from a skunk). The key to cracking what consciousness does in the brain is to work backwards from an observable physical action, explains Morsella in his paper.
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