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Previous Programs

2020 Consciousness in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Information as Fuel
Awardees

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Moshe Shay Ben-Haim
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Ran R. Hassin  
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem



Project Title

Consciousness Without Language: Exploration in Non-Verbal Species and Human Babies

Project Summary

We tackle one of the last mysteries of science: Consciousness. The main obstacle facing a robust science of consciousness is simple: the major – and some will argue, the only – way to learn about others’ conscious experiences is simply by asking them. Alas, non-verbal species, by definition, cannot report their internal states. Young infants cannot report them either; they don’t have language. Thus, the issue of animal and baby consciousness have long been considered outside the scope of science. We propose a completely new way of bypassing this obstacle by harnessing double dissociations between non-conscious and conscious processing— cases in which conscious and non-conscious perception lead to opposite behaviors. These allow us to safely infer the existence of two modes of processing: one that is associated with consciousness, and one that is not. We can also test the limitations and advantages of these modes of processing. We begin by testing a distant relative – the archer fish (Toxotes chatareus), and the inaccessible minds of our own babies. If successful, this project will not only bring the science of consciousness to nonverbal animals, it will also provide a robust, consistent methodology to look at the ontogenesis and phylogenesis of the conscious mind.



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