“Consciousness and Decision Making”
Berlin, 31 May until 5 June 2015
The Summer School focuses on interdisciplinary questions in mind and brain research. More specifically, the Summer School will deal with “Consciousness and Decision Making”.
The problem of consciousness is one of the key issues in mind and brain research. Consciousness is constitutive for our entire experience, for many of our higher cognitive abilities, and for our pre-scientific self-understanding. Likewise, the question of how we make decisions is of enormous ethical and scientific relevance, affecting both our everyday life and our self-understanding. Both topics are continuously stirring heated debates, but despite enormous efforts we are far from a universally accepted theory of consciousness or free will.
There are many reasons why this is so. One of them results from difficulties to design ecologically valid experiments on these subjects. As far as consciousness is concerned, the problem is to make sure that behavioral or neurophysiological responses can guarantee the existence of consciousness, particularly in experiments with young kids or animals. Likewise, typical free will experiments are about choices between different button-presses (A vs. B) that have no significance whatsoever to the experimental participants. In real life settings, however, the choices do matter. Thus, findings might look differently if subjects would care: personal processes, rational deliberation, and conscious intentions might play a more important role than they do in mere button-press designs.
It seems therefore reasonable to look for ways to design ecologically valid experiments in both areas. To do so, the interdisciplinary Summer School brings together senior and junior researchers from mind and brain research disciplines to discuss the question “how to design ecologically valid paradigms for free will and consciousness” from different perspectives.
The following specific topics will be addressed:
- How to study consciousness and decision making in choices that matter.
- How to derive conclusions regarding higher cognitive functions from behavioral data in experiments with non-linguistic subjects (babies, animals).
- A philosophical analysis of “relevant” decisions.
The format of the summer school will include talks by established guest speakers, and hands-on work on specific projects in working groups. Each group will be led by one senior researcher, and will work during the week of the summer school to develop, program, run and analyze a specific experiment that touches directly on the topics listed above. It is hoped that such intense environment would yield interesting findings as well as spur long-lasting collaborations between the institutes and researchers.
Professor, Academic Director of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain & Institute of Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Professor, Director of the Leslie and Susan Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
Dr Inken Dose
Tel.: +49 30 2093-1707
Fax: +49 30 2093-1802
Berlin School of Mind and Brain
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
10117 Berlin, Germany
How to get here (link)