VS298: Subjectivity

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Course description

Subjectivity, aka 1st person experience, is an aspect of the famous mind/body problem that is at least partially tractable. The course will explore a wide variety of past and future experiments for learning about the neural and embodied basis for subjectivity. Each week we will have a paper or two to read and possibly a video from world leaders in the field. Then when we meet we will typically have discussions, rather than lectures, on that week’s topic. Two things that will be expected from enrolled students are: 1) A weekly question for the speaker, to be turned in based on the readings. 2) A final proposed experiment to test some unsolved mystery that can be based on science. Discussion on your proposals would be the topic for the last class.


Stan Klein

  • Email: sklein@berkeley.edu
  • Office: 420 Minor Hall
  • Office hours: immediately following lecture

Jerry Feldman

  • Email: jfeldman@cs.berkeley.edu
  • Office: 739 Soda Hall
  • Office hours: immediately following lecture


  • Location: 560 Evans (Redwood Center conference room)
  • Times: Thursday :2:00 - 4:00

Enrollment information

  • Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, subject to background requirements specified below.
  • Undergraduates should contact Prof. Klein for enrollment information
  • Telebears: {CCN 40715, Section 3, Units 2, Grade Option PNP}

Videos of Previous Lectures

Week 1 (Introduction)

Week 2 (Stan Klein)

Week 3 (Jerry Feldman)

Week 4 (Peter Tse; has both camcorder & zoom version)

Week 5 (Ken Nakayama)

Week 6 (Bruno Olshausen)

Week 7 (Terry Regier and Rich Ivry)

Week 8 (Review & discussion of richness of visual world Klein & Feldman)

Week 9 (Ken Nakayama)

Week 10 (Michael Cohen)

Week 11 (Shin Shimojo)

Week 12 (Brian Odegaard and Bob Knight)

Week 14 (Christof Koch)


Week 1: 8/24 Introductory Discussion Stan Klein and Jerry Feldman

Liliana Albertazzi (Ed) Handbook of Experimental Phenomenology, Mar 15, 2013 Review by Nicolo Valenti

Ken Nakayama’s course outline on Consciousness

Chalmers Constructing a Science of Consciousness

Assumptions for Course

  • Note that for week 1 there is no need to read the material before coming to class. The first meeting will be a general introduction. These articles will be mentioned.
Week 2: 8/31 Hard Problems and Psychophysical Methodology. Stan Klein

Block Carmel Fleming kentridge Koch Lau Lamme Rosenthal, Consciousness science: real progress and lingering misconceptions. This 2 page paper was passed out.

Sejnowski, T. J. Churchland, P.S. Movshon, J.A. Putting big data to good use in neuroscience, Nature Neuroscience, 17, 1440-1441, 2014. This 2 page paper was passed out.

Stan Klein “Using Psychic Phenomena To Connect Mind to Brain using Quantum Mechanics” A skeptic’s view.

Stan Klein Will Robots See?

Stephen Fleming Metacognition (will be discussed, no need to read it)

Week 3: 9/7 Binding problems and Vision Mysteries Jerry Feldman

Feldman, The Neural Binding Problem(s) *skip section 3 click here

Feldman, Visual Experience http://arxiv.org/abs/1604.08612

Feldman, Redwood Center talk on Binding Problem https://archive.org/details/Redwood_Center_2012_06_27_Jerome_Feldman

Assumptions for Course

Week 4: 9/14 Attention and Appearance Peter Tse

Chapter in “Handbook of Experimental Phenomenolgy “How Attention Can Alter Appearances” Peter Tse, Eric Reavis, Peter Kohler, Gideon Caplovitz, Thalia Wheatley

Week 5: 9/21 Subjective Contours Ken Nakayama

Nakayama, K. , He, Z.J. and Shimojo, S. Visual surface representation: a critical link between lower-level and higher level vision. 1995 READ ONLY Pages 1-21

Lecture by KN at Redwood center hand out red cyan glasses https://archive.org/details/Redwood_Center_1012_01_11_Ken_Nakayama

Week 6: 9/28 Deep Learning and Subjectivity Bruno Olshausen

Sejnowski, T. J. Churchland, P.S. Movshon, J.A. Putting big data to good use in neuroscience, Nature Neuroscience, 17, 1440-1441, 2014 * same as week 1 reading

Neuroscience-Inspired Artificial Intelligence Demis Hassabis, Dharshan Kumaran, Christopher Summerfield, Matthew Botvinick http://www.cell.com/neuron/pdf/S0896-6273%2817%2930509-3.pdf

Bruno Olshausen. Perception-as-Inference. The Cognitive Neurosciences. V.M Gazzniga & R. Mangun, Eds MIT Press. (2013).

Week 7: 10/5 Color Experience and the Whorf Hypothesis Terry Regier & Rich Ivry

Whorf hypothesis is supported in the right visual field but not the left Gilbert, Regier, Kay, Ivry, 489–494, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0509868103

Whorfian effects on colour memory are not reliable. Wright O, Davies IR, Franklin A. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2015;68(4):745-58.

Regier Xu Whorf under uncertainty

Week 8: 10/12 Day for Discussion of previous talks and preparation for the week 10 Cohen/Koch controversy to be discussed by Cohen
Week 9: 10/19 Wm. James on Subjectivity (and Phenomenology) Ken Nakayama

William James, Chapter 11 “The Stream of Consciousness” in Psychology: A briefer Course (p 151-176)

Also Ken’s Course Syllabus

Attentional Requirements of Consciousness, Cohen et al.

Week 10: 10/26 Richness of Experience Michael Cohen

CohenMA, DennettDC, KanwisherN. What is the bandwidth of perceptual experience? Trends Cogn Sci 2016; 20:324-35

Cohen Dennet Kanwisher: A response to comments on main article

Are we underestimating the richness of visual experience? Andrew M. Haun, Giulio Tononi, Christof Koch, Naotsugu Tsuchiya; Neuroscience of Consciousness Journal 2017

Metamers of the ventral stream Freeman and Simoncelli

Week 11: 11/2 Postdiction, and myths around “quaila”, Shin Shimojo

B. Libet on “time marker” & “backward referral." https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4612-0355-1_9.

A direct application of this to visual processing: Nishida & Johnston (2002). http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096098220200698X.

Shimojo (2014) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3978293/.

Week 12: 11/9 PreFrontal Cortex and Subjectivity Brian Odegaard & Robert Knight

Should a Few Null Findings Falsify Prefrontal Theories of Conscious Perception? Brian Odegaard, Robert T Knight, Hakwan Lau doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/122267

Neural correlates of consciousness: progress and problems - Nature Reviews Neuroscience Christof Koch, Marcello Massimini,,; Melanie Boly,; & Giulio Tononi,.

Week 13: 11/16 Science article by Dehaene, Hakwan Lau & Koulder and WSJ article by Christof Koch

We will discuss the recent Science article "What is Consciousness and Could Machines Have It?"

We will also discuss the recent WallStreet Journal article by Christof Koch titled "To Keep Up With AI, We'll Need High Tech Brains." AI and High Tech Brains WSJ

Week 14: 11/30 Neural Correlates of Consciousness and Integrated Information Theory, Christof Koch

Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Progress and Problems. Koch et al

Integrated Information Theory: From Consciousness to Its Physical Substrate. Tononi and Koch

Scientific American, November, 2017: Building a Consciousness Meter. Koch