The minimalist approach that we develop here is a framework that allows to appreciate how non-conscious processing and conscious contents shape human cognition, broadly defined. It is composed of three simple principles. First, cognitive processes are inherently non-conscious, while their inputs and (interim) outputs may be consciously experienced. Second, non-conscious processes and elements of the cognitive architecture prioritize information for conscious experiences. Third, conscious events are composed of series of conscious contents and non-conscious processes, with increased duration leading to more opportunity for processing. The narrowness of conscious experiences is conceptualized here as a solution to the problem of channeling the plethora of non-conscious processes into action and communication processes that are largely serial. The framework highlights the importance of prioritization for consciousness, and we provide an illustrative review of three main factors that shape prioritization - stimulus strength, motivational relevance and mental accessibility. We further discuss when and how this framework (i) is compatible with previous theories, (ii) enables new understandings of established findings and models, and (iii) generates new predictions and understandings.
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- function of consciousness
- nonconscious processes
- selection for consciousness