Human Consciousness is not Uniform

A reflection about how and why human consciousness is not uniform.

This article was tagged with: Cognitive Science

There are 770 words in this article, and it will probably take you less than 4 minutes to read it.

This article was published 2023-10-18 00:00:00 -0400, which makes this post and me old when I published it.


While it is definitely no secret that human consciousness isn’t uniform, I think that the depth of the diversity in human conscious would surprise most people. The craziest thing about it all is that we have no ways of truly understanding what other people’s conscious experience is like. An oft-cited example of perceptual differences is the fact that we all could be perceiving colors differently, we would just have no idea of communicating that fact that someone else.

I think that for many people they can go their whole life without knowing that their conscious experience is different than other people. For one, it is normal to them. They have not experienced anything else and how no way of knowing about anything else. False consensus bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to “see their own behavioral choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances” (Ross, Greene & House 1977). We have such a small sample size of conscious experience (n = 1), and when we see people act like us, it can be easy to assume that their internals are the same as us. However, this is not given, and is in fact practically demonstrably false.

The only reason that someone would really know that something is “wrong” with them would be if it seems like they cannot fully prosper in society, or society has been built in such a way that they cannot prosper. From a biostatistical standpoint, a lot of these conditions are quite rare, and thus can be classified as “abnormal”. As for if they are classified as a disability, that depends on the model of disability that you subscribe to. Under the medical model, these could classify, but as for the functional or social model, that really depends on the condition, as well as the person’s ability to cope with the condition as well. As in the case with many conditions, you could go your entire life without knowing that something is “missing” or that you are experiencing the world in a different way than other people.

Is it sad to have a condition where you are “deficient” in some aspect of consciousness? For me, I have aphantasia, or a lack of mental imagery. I can be sad about missing out on visualizing things, but I can’t really imagine what it would be like to live any other way. I can surely become melancholic at the fact that people are experiencing something that I will never be able, but at the same time, I know that there isn’t really anything I can do, and I will just have to keep on living my life.

The following list is made up of numerous examples of how human consciousness varies from person to person. Some of the disorders are very rare cases, but some of them are more common than you would think, or can come in varying degrees. I would say that strength of mental imagery, strength of episodic memory, sense of taste, and emotion are all things that vary from person to person.

Sensation and Perception:

  • Vision
    • Color Vision Deficiency (“Color Blindness”)
      • Monochromacy/achromatopsia: Can’t see color at all
    • Akinetopsia (“Motion Blindness”)
  • Taste
  • Smell
    • Anosmia (“Smell blindness”)
    • Hyposmia (“Reduced ability to smell”)
  • Hearing
    • Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Dyslexia and Dyscalculia
    • Dyslexia: Difficulty processing words
    • Dyscalculia: Difficulty processing numeric concepts/information
  • Congenital Insensitivity to Pain
  • Interoception
    • Adipsia/hypodipsia (“Lack of thirst”)
  • Synesthesia

Memory and Imagination:

Emotion:

Alertness/Sleep:

  • Hypersomnia
    • You feel excessively tired during the day or sleep longer than usual at night
  • Narcolepsy
  • Insomnia
  • Lucid Dreaming

Executive Function:


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