Consciousness Works Differently Than You Think, According To This New Theory

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Biology, an international team of researchers suggests that there’s some lag time between when we actually see something and when we become aware of it.

Data from previously published psychological and behavioral experiments supports this theory, the researchers determined. The two-stage model they devised suggests that our brains first process visual information from the environment while we’re in an unconscious state, and then transfer it to our conscious awareness.

Here’s what the researchers believe happens: First, we rapidly and unconsciously process visual information, which takes only several milliseconds. Then, the features of that visual information are integrated into our conscious awareness in a coherent way, which takes several hundred milliseconds.

This would mean that consciousness comes in a series of 400-millisecond “time slices,” with gaps of unconsciousness in between. Got that?

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