Associate Professor of Psychology in San Francisco State University, Ezequiel Morsella has challenged our current understanding of human consciousness and the notion of self in “Passive Frame Theory”.
People comprehend consciousness to be in charge of thoughts, feelings and physical actions because only through these impulses do we experience our own consciousness. However, “Passive Frame Theory” argues that consciousness is more reflective and less active. It gives the illusion that it contributes to the way we process our surroundings, but it actually repeats the same task over and over again.
Morsella compares consciousness to an interpreter that aids in the communication between speakers of different languages. He elucidated: “The interpreter presents the information but is not the one making any arguments or acting upon the knowledge that is shared. Similarly, the information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious processes, nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man, and it doesn’t do as much work as you think.”
The theory also refutes the idea of free will – that consciousness can act as a “decider” and instigate a course of action on its own. Consciousness can only transmit signals to control voluntary action such as the movement of a limb. Furthermore, their theory argues that one conscious thought cannot lead to another: ”One thought doesn’t know about the other, they just often have access to and are acting upon the same, unconscious information.”
Morsella commented on the difficulty of studying consciousness: “For the vast majority of human history, we were hunting and gathering and had more pressing concerns that required rapidly executed voluntary actions. Consciousness seems to have evolved for these types of actions rather than to understand itself.”
The theory was published by the journal “Behavioural and Brain Sciences” and could have serious impact on the study of mental disorders.