Memory, cognition, cognitive control, and consciousness are important processes that require detailed examination and research. Several studies have been conducted in order to address these topics and answer problematic questions, including the works by Barrett and Kurzban (2006), Koch and Tsuchiya (2012), Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016), and Eichenbaum (2017). The purpose of this paper is to summarize these articles, identify the key themes, and pose questions for further research and analysis.
Summaries of Articles
In their article, Barrett and Kurzban (2006) reviewed the debates on modularity and its role in the work of the mind. They provided the analysis of the existing views on the problem and focused on the ideas that had not been discussed in detail previously. Having analyzed other researchers’ ideas, Barrett and Kurzban (2006) concluded that clearly explained modularity could serve as a background for further research on the work of cognitive systems as its examination was important to understand the work of the mind.
Koch and Tsuchiya (2012) concentrated on reviewing recent studies on the similarities and differences in visual attention and visual consciousness processes. The researchers claimed that attention and consciousness processes could be studied simultaneously as related ones, but it is impossible to state that they occur in the same way. Thus, more research is required in order to understand how visual attention and visual consciousness are similar or different.
Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016) focused on studying and analyzing the cases of thinking without consciousness. Referring to the review of literature, they found that prolonged thought processes could be associated not only with consciously thinking but also with unconscious thought. Thus, if people are involved in a prolonged decision-making process, they can think over decisions or objects both consciously and unconsciously (Dijksterhuis & Strick, 2016). As a result of their analysis, the researchers proposed determining Type 3 thought processes based on unconscious thoughts.
In his study, Eichenbaum (2017) described the recent findings on the topic of memory processes from the perspective of the role of different brain systems in them. It was found that the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus played a critical role in memory processes and organizing memories in a system. Thus, the researcher accentuated the importance of conducting more research on the connection between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex to support memory processes.
The thematic connection in Barrett and Kurzban’s (2006) and Gage and Baars’s (2018) works is observed with reference to the idea of functional neuroanatomy related to the brain and cognitive modularity. Thus, both groups of authors accentuated in their findings that specific areas of the brain perform different but related functions, and cognition is a result of multiple specific processes. Although Gage and Baars (2018) did not discuss the idea of modularity openly, this principle was mentioned in their work.
The themes of the connection between attention and consciousness were actively discussed by Koch and Tsuchiya (2012) and Gage and Baars (2018). Thus, Gage and Baars (2018) explained the difference between attention and consciousness, accentuating that consciousness is associated with experience when attention is the selection of conscious events of interest. These processes seem to be similar, but there are still differences in them. The same idea based on recent evidence was developed by Koch and Tsuchiya (2012): consciousness and attention should be differentiated as it is supported by perceptual imaging experiments.
Consciousness and unconsciousness are the topics actively analyzed by Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016) and Gage and Baars (2018). According to Gage and Baars (2018), cognition of a waking person “is woven of both conscious and unconscious threads, constantly weaving back and forth” (p. 255). Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016) expanded the examination of this view, focusing on the situations of thinking without consciousness and their role in cognitive processes.
Memory organization was viewed by Eichenbaum (2017) and Gage and Baars (2018) as directly connected with the work of the hippocampus. Following Eichenbaum (2017), neurons in the hippocampus are responsible for determining links in the system of related memories. In their turn, Gage and Baars (2018) concentrated on the role of the hippocampus in remembering rather than distinguishing familiar objects or experiences, thus, connecting memories with feelings rather than judgments.
Questions for Further Research
The issue of modularity related to cognition and the mind processes requires further examination. Therefore, referring to the study by Barrett and Kurzban (2006), it is possible to pose the following question to focus on: What role can modules play in the cognitive architecture of individuals with reference to their specific functions and the mind activities? Since modularity is a rather controversial issue in studies related to cognition, additional research is necessary in this field.
The connection and similarities between consciousness and attention are the topics for many studies, as it was noted by Koch and Tsuchiya (2012). However, more research is required in this area because it is significant to recognize the role of cortical regions in forming visual consciousness and attention. The question to research in this context is the following one: How does the work of different cortical regions influence processes in visual consciousness and attention? The received data can be used to explain differences and relations in these processes.
Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016) proposed one more type of thought in addition to Type 1 and Type 2 processes. Therefore, the related question to study can also be formulated: Are Type 3 processes covering unconscious thinking separated and different from Type 1 and Type 2 processes or sharing similar characteristics? The answer to this question will add to the discussion of this scientifically challenging suggestion made by the researchers.
The function of the hippocampus in organizing and controlling memory processes discussed by Eichenbaum (2017) needs to be studied in detail. As a result, the researcher’s claims have provoked the development of other research questions to focus on: What is the nature of the interaction of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, as a consequence of which they influence each other and memory processing? When responding to this question, it is possible to study the specifics of memory organization and control.
Questions Related to the Article
The analysis of thinking without consciousness is discussed by researchers as a challenging task because this idea is comparably new, and little evidence is available to explain the nature of unconscious thought. From this perspective, the first question that comes from the study by Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016) is how does unconscious thought follow patterns typical of both rational and experimental thinking processes to be identified as a unique model of processing? The answer to this question will allow for supporting or not supporting the idea that unconscious thought is a separate Type 3 model of processing.
The second question that can be generated referring to the research by Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016) is the following: Can unconscious thought, which is used in the context of goal-directed thinking, be successfully applied for decision making or problem solving? The reason for asking this question is that the researchers directly accentuated the positive role of unconscious thought in thinking over complex or superior problems and finding effective solutions.
From this perspective, it is possible to discuss the clinical and practical relevance of the study by Dijksterhuis and Strick (2016) with reference to the second question related to the application of unconscious thought for resolving problematic issues. Thus, if thinking not involving consciousness allows for resolving complex issues, this approach can be used in psychotherapy and in the work with patients who need support in decision making and problem solving. When informing them about the role of unconscious thinking in dealing with issues, it is possible to develop strategies and techniques to cope with patients’ problems and create the basis for a positive experience.
The summaries of four articles on the topics of memory, cognition, and consciousness have been provided in the paper. Furthermore, the analysis of the connection of the ideas presented in the articles with the opinions in other sources has also been conducted. The topics discussed in the selected studies are rather debatable, and they are related to the recent findings in the field of neuroscience and cognitive studies. As a result, more evidence is required to support the presented discussions. Therefore, possible questions to guide further research on the analyzed topics have been formulated.
Barrett, H. C., & Kurzban, R. (2006). Modularity in cognition: Framing the debate. Psychological Review, 113(3), 628-647.
Dijksterhuis, A., & Strick, M. (2016). A case for thinking without consciousness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(1), 117-132.
Eichenbaum, H. (2017). Memory organization and control. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 19-45.
Gage, N. M., & Baars, B. J. (2018). Fundamentals of cognitive neuroscience: A beginner’s guide (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.
Koch, C., & Tsuchiya, N. (2012). Attention and consciousness: Related yet different. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(2), 103-105.