The consciousness state space (CSS)-a unifying model for consciousness and self

Front Psychol. 2014 Apr 29;5:341. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00341. eCollection 2014.


Every experience, those we are aware of and those we are not, is embedded in a subjective timeline, is tinged with emotion, and inevitably evokes a certain sense of self. Here, we present a phenomenological model for consciousness and selfhood which relates time, awareness, and emotion within one framework. The consciousness state space (CSS) model is a theoretical one. It relies on a broad range of literature, hence has high explanatory and integrative strength, and helps in visualizing the relationship between different aspects of experience. Briefly, it is suggested that all phenomenological states fall into two categories of consciousness, core and extended (CC and EC, respectively). CC supports minimal selfhood that is short of temporal extension, its scope being the here and now. EC supports narrative selfhood, which involves personal identity and continuity across time, as well as memory, imagination and conceptual thought. The CSS is a phenomenological space, created by three dimensions: time, awareness and emotion. Each of the three dimensions is shown to have a dual phenomenological composition, falling within CC and EC. The neural spaces supporting each of these dimensions, as well as CC and EC, are laid out based on the neuroscientific literature. The CSS dynamics include two simultaneous trajectories, one in CC and one in EC, typically antagonistic in normal experiences. However, this characteristic behavior is altered in states in which a person experiences an altered sense of self. Two examples are laid out, flow and meditation. The CSS model creates a broad theoretical framework with explanatory and unificatory power. It constructs a detailed map of the consciousness and selfhood phenomenology, which offers constraints for the science of consciousness. We conclude by outlining several testable predictions raised by the CSS model.

Keywords: awareness; consciousness; default mode network; emotion; flow experience; meditation; self; time.