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Bo-Rin Kim's picture

"I-function" and consciousness

When we learned about the "I-function" this week, one of the first questions that came to mind was: Isn't the "I-function" same as consciousness?

It seemed to me that the ability to think about oneself and one's actions and thoughts pretty much defined consciousness. Doesn't being conscious mean that you are aware of your surroundings and yourself, which is what the "I-function" is? However, after thinking about it again, I've come to think that maybe consciousness is simply being able to take in all the input signals from the environment and being able to potentially react to them. While the I-function is a part of consciousness--the part that focuses on thinking about how the "I" is going to interact with the environment. Perhaps the "I-function" fits under the larger umbrella term of "consciousness". 

More interestingly, I've been looking at a book called "The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force" which discusses the work of Jeffrey M. Schwartz, who has done work helping OCD patients break their compulsive behaviors. In his book, Schwartz discusses how having patients simply think about behaviors that could replace their compulsive habits decreased the incidents of the patients engaging in their compulsive behaviors. Simple willpower of the brain could change the neurostructures of the brain to break the loop that caused the repetitive compulsive behaviors in OCD patients. This shows that the "I function" could influence consciousness by changing how we respond to our environment (in OCD patients, not responding to compulsion-provoking stimuli with compulsions). So even if the "I function" may be a subset of consciousness, awareness and control of the self are powerful enough to shape the way we perceive and respond to our environments.

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