Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Target Article

The contents of consciousness: A neuropsychological conjecture

Jeffrey A. Graya1

a1 Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, England Electronic mail:


Drawing on previous models of anxiety, intermediate memory, the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, and goal-directed behaviour, a neuropsychological hypothesis is proposed for the generation of the contents of consciousness. It is suggested that these correspond to the outputs of a comparator that, on a moment-by-moment basis, compares the current state of the organism's perceptual world with a predicted state. An outline is given of the information-processing functions of the comparator system and of the neural systems which mediate them. The hypothesis appears to be able to account for a number of key features of the contents of consciousness. However, it is argued that neitherthis nor any existing comparable hypothesis is yet able to explain why the brain should generate conscious experience of any kind at all.