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On The Necessity Of Consciousness For Sophisticated Human Action

Title: On The Necessity Of Consciousness For Sophisticated Human Action.
Name(s): Baumeister, Roy F., author
Lau, Stephan, author
Maranges, Heather M., author
Clark, Cory J., author
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Journal Article
Journal Article
Date Issued: 2018-10-08
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: In this essay, we aim to counter and qualify the epiphenomenalist challenge proposed in this special issue on the grounds of empirical and theoretical arguments. The current body of scientific knowledge strongly indicates that conscious thought is a necessary condition for many human behaviors, and therefore, consciousness qualifies as a cause of those behaviors. We review illustrative experimental evidence for the causal power of conscious thought while also acknowledging its natural limitations. We argue that it is implausible that the metabolic costs inherent to conscious processes would have evolved in humans without any adaptive benefits. Moreover, we discuss the relevance of conscious thought to the issue of freedom. Many accounts hold conscious thought as necessary and conducive to naturalistic conceptions of personal freedom. Apart from these theories, we show that the conscious perception of freedom and the belief in free will provide sources of interesting findings, beneficial behavioral effects, and new avenues for research. We close by proposing our own challenge via outlining the gaps that have yet to be filled to establish hard evidence of an epiphenomenal model of consciousness. To be sure, we appreciate the epiphenomenalist challenge as it promotes critical thinking and inspires rigorous research. However, we see no merit in downplaying the causal significance of consciousness a priori. Instead, we believe it more worthwhile to focus on the complex interplay between conscious and other causal processes.
Identifier: FSU_libsubv1_wos_000446627900001 (IID), 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01925 (DOI)
Keywords: behavior, self, automaticity, punishment, freedom, free will, consciousness, belief, belief in free will, conscious thoughts, epiphenomenalism, everyday life
Publication Note: The publisher’s version of record is available at
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU
Is Part Of: Frontiers in Psychology.
Issue: vol. 9

Choose the citation style.
Baumeister, R. F., Lau, S., Maranges, H. M., & Clark, C. J. (2018). On The Necessity Of Consciousness For Sophisticated Human Action. Frontiers In Psychology. Retrieved from