The role of consciousness in SPAARS

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In Chapter 3 we stressed the importance of both conscious and unconscious systems in any understanding of emotion. Clearly it is beyond our ambitions to provide anything like a comprehensive discussion of consciousness and the problems it poses for psychology and philosophy. Instead, we shall restrict ourselves to a few necessarily inadequate remarks about the role and place of consciousness within SPAARS.

In SPAARS the content of conscious awareness is a product of the various levels and formats of the system (schematic model, propositional, associative, and analogical). The individual can be aware of images, smells, sounds, and tastes (analogical), and of thoughts and language (propositional), and finally of the higherorder schematic meaning that these things evoke. In addition, one can be aware of the products of associative-level processes; for example, Peter's awareness of his fear at his father's shouting.

Whether or not someone is conscious of the content of these various representational systems depends on the extent of the person's attention to the information in question, the level of activation of that information in the system, the current configuration of schematic models, and the influence of any inhibitory processes within the system (see below). We also want to emphasise the distinction made by Lambie and Marcel (2002) and others, between a reflective consciousness and an immersed non-reflective consciousness especially in relation to the phenomenology of emotion. So, for example, it is possible to close your eyes and concentrate on the sounds you can hear or the sensations in the body or the flow of thoughts, whereas usually most of these sounds or sensations or thoughts may impinge very little on conscious awareness. One can even be aware of being aware of such experiences in a state of reflective consciousness (a meditation-type technique that is being increasingly used in CBT therapies, for example; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2001). However, if there is a loud unexpected noise or a sharp bodily twinge or a persistent worry then we become immediately conscious of it. The information that is available to consciousness is also a function of the schematic models that currently dominate the system. Incompatible information is often inhibited (see below). Once information is brought into consciousness it can be restructured and reorganised. This apparent "executive ability" of consciousness extends from manipulation of visual images (e.g., Shepard, 1978) to reconstructing schematic models of the world.

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