Susan Blackmore

Susan Blackmore
University of Plymouth | UoP · School of Psychology

BA PPP Oxford 1973 (physiology and psychology); MSc Environmental Psychology, Surrey University 1975; PhD Surrey University 1980

About

150
Publications
82,083
Reads
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3,233
Citations
Introduction
Susan Blackmore is a psychologist, lecturer and writer researching consciousness, memes, and anomalous experiences, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth, UK. She is a TED lecturer, blogs for the Guardian, and often appears on radio and television. The Meme Machine (1999) has been translated into 16 other languages; more recent books include Seeing Myself: The new science of out-of-body experiences (2017) and a textbook Consciousness: An Introduction (3rd Ed 2018).
Additional affiliations
September 2001 - July 2009
University of the West of England, Bristol
Position
  • Lecturer
September 1988 - July 1998
University of Bristol
Position
  • Lecturer

Publications

Publications (150)
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents a series of experiments in collective social robotics, spanning more than 10 years, with the long-term aim of building embodied models of (aspects of) cultural evolution. Initial experiments demonstrated the emergence of behavioural traditions in a group of social robots programmed to imitate each other’s behaviours (we call the...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper presents a series of experiments in collective social robotics, spanning more than 10 years, with the long-term aim of building embodied models of (aspects) of cultural evolution. Initial experiments demonstrated the emergence of behavioural traditions in a group of social robots programmed to imitate each other's behaviours (we call the...
Chapter
Full-text available
The concept of memes is derived from the principles of universal Darwinism; that whenever information is copied with variation and selection, that information is a replicator and inevitably evolves. The core definition of a meme is 'that which is imitated'. Genes are the first replicator; memes the second replicator that emerged when human ancestor...
Book
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This edition of Consciousness, revised by author team Susan Blackmore and Emily Troscianko, explores the key theories and evidence in consciousness studies ranging from neuroscience and psychology to quantum theories and philosophy. It examines why the term ‘consciousness’ has no recognised definition and provides an opportunity to delve into perso...
Chapter
Directing attention may feel like pointing a spotlight, but what is happening in the brain and how does attention relate to consciousness? Two broad types of attention are controlled by different brain systems: the dorsal (voluntary) and ventral (involuntary) attention systems. Theories of attention are reviewed, including bottleneck or filter theo...
Chapter
The Buddha claimed to have ‘woken up’, describing a way to end suffering by seeing all phenomena as impermanent and letting go of desire and the illusory self. Many others have described awakening, but do they all undergo the same changes in self and consciousness? Buddhism has interacted more closely with science and psychotherapy than other relig...
Chapter
The basic principles by which evolution creates design without a plan or designer are outlined. Darwin’s idea of ‘descent with modification’ is explained in terms of the evolutionary algorithm and the ‘modern synthesis’ between genetics and evolutionary theory. Selfish gene theory suggests the possibility of a second replicator, the meme, which dep...
Chapter
Can the brain tell us everything we need to know about consciousness? Some materialists say yes, while theorists of ‘extended mind’ and ‘embodied cognition’ criticise ‘neurocentrism’ and say no. Mysterians claim that we can never understand consciousness at all. This chapter briefly reviews the anatomy and function of the human nervous system, from...
Chapter
Is there a real divide between reality and imagination? Reality discrimination or reality monitoring are the processes by which we distinguish the two, based on memory, clarity, or availability, but false memories are easily created. True hallucinations are often distinguished from pseudo-hallucinations, illusions, and imagination, but there are no...
Chapter
The idea that we are unified conscious selves experiencing a stream of consciousness is natural but problematic. For example, cases of multiple personality show that one body can sometimes support more than one self, although theories differ on the nature of those selves. Two categories of theory are contrasted: ego theories posit a continuing self...
Chapter
Introspection is essential to the study of subjective experience but is problematic. Some call for a special ‘first-person science’ of consciousness based on irreducible subjective facts; others claim that ‘first-person methods’ such as introspection, meditation, or other personal explorations and training are valid, but science is a collective ent...
Chapter
Are we really free when we choose our actions? The major religions rely heavily on the concept of free will and most people believe in it, but there are serious problems. First we review the neuroanatomy of volition: the networks involved in internally and externally triggered actions and in decision-making. Libet’s ‘half-second delay in consciousn...
Chapter
We feel ourselves to be one united self, experiencing one stream of consciousness at a time, yet look inside the brain and we find a parallel system of great complexity and diversity. The ‘binding problem’ concerns how the features of an object are brought together. For example, different parts of the visual system deal with colour, shape, and move...
Chapter
After briefly surveying the basics of waking, sleeping, and dreaming, this chapter turns from physiology to experience. Dreams are often bizarre, with incongruity, uncertainty, and sudden scene changes, possibly due to failed feature binding. Studies of dream recall and content reveal sex differences in content and show how children’s dreams develo...
Chapter
Could machines ever be conscious? Ways to find out include reverse-engineering human machines or artificial ones. A brief history of artificial intelligence (AI) leads from early automata through calculating machines and ‘Good Old-Fashioned AI’ to connectionism, embodied cognition, and swarm robotics. Turing asked ‘Can machines think?’ Attempts to...
Chapter
Does the fact that we are conscious mean that consciousness must have evolved to serve a function? Not necessarily. This question relates to whether consciousness has causal efficacy and whether we humans might have evolved as zombies rather than ‘conscies’. Four ways of thinking about the evolution of consciousness are explored: 1) Belief in zombi...
Chapter
We may have powerful intuitions about our own minds, but they must be questioned. Could vision, consciousness, self, and free will all be illusory – meaning that they are not what they seem? This chapter concentrates on whether vision is a ‘grand illusion’. This idea emerged from research on ‘change blindness’, which found that even large changes i...
Chapter
Altered states of consciousness (ASCs) are surprisingly hard to define or measure. Neither subjective methods, like verbal reports, nor objective measures such as how the state is induced, or physiological and behavioural criteria, are entirely satisfactory. Attempts to map ASCs are reviewed, including two- or three-dimensional maps such as Tart’s...
Chapter
The metaphor of mind as a theatre is common and alluring, but might it lead us astray? Dennett criticises those who imagine a ‘Cartesian theatre’: a mythical place in which consciousness happens and its contents come and go. This cannot exist because the brain is a massively parallel system with no centre, place, or process where the ‘audience of o...
Chapter
Is the age-old distinction between the ‘conscious mind’ and ‘the unconscious’ valid, or do powerful, but false, intuitions mislead us? Unconscious, implicit, or subliminal perception is reviewed, from early ideas of a ‘subliminal self’ to modern debates over subliminal perception, including signal detection theory, priming, and the differences betw...
Chapter
The problem of consciousness relates to what the world is made of, how it began, the nature of selves, and above all the mind-body problem. In philosophy, dualism is the idea that mind and matter are distinct – a common belief in most societies and religions. In Cartesian dualism (described by René Descartes) mind and matter are separate substances...
Chapter
Although there is no recognised definition of consciousness, many researchers refer back to the famous question, ‘What is it like to be a bat?’. If there is anything it is like for the bat, that is what is meant by being conscious. This is also called ‘phenomenal consciousness’ (P-consciousness) or ‘phenomenality’ and is sometimes contrasted with ‘...
Book
Consciousness, ‘the last great mystery for science’, remains a hot topic. How can a physical brain create our experience of the world? What creates our identity? Do we really have free will? Could consciousness itself be an illusion? Exciting new developments in brain science are continuing the debates on these issues, and the field has now expand...
Chapter
‘The evolution of consciousness’ begins with two questions. First, which living creatures are conscious and in what way? Secondly, when and how did consciousness evolve? Consciousness could be an all-or-nothing phenomenon, with some creatures having it and others not. Or it might be a continuous variable, with some having more than others. Differen...
Article
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Book Review: Review of: The Ancient Origins of Consciousness: How the Brain Created Experience by Todd E. Feinberg and Jon M. Mallatt. Pub. 2016, MIT Press. ISBN: 9780262333252. ________________________________________ No one has solved the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness until now, claim Feinberg and Mallatt; no one has bridged the ‘explanatory ga...
Book
Full-text available
Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand their own mind and to find a spiritual path that is compatible with science As an impressionable young student, Susan Blackmore had an intense, dramatic and life-changing experience, seeming to leave her body and travel the world. With no rational explanation for her out-of-body experience (OBE) s...
Article
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In their analysis, Norenzayan et al. completely ignore memetics, which, unlike other theories, treats memes as replicators and looks to memetic as well as genetic advantage. Now that memes are evolving ever faster, genetic advantage is less relevant. So when religious and secular values are at odds, we need a memetic analysis to understand what is...
Article
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An implicitly dualist or Cartesian materialist theory of consciousness is proposed without citing the many well-known problems with such theories. A function for consciousness is proposed with no reference to the possibility that “consciousness itself” has no function of its own. The theory builds on proposed “subset consensus” and “integration con...
Article
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Frankish’s illusionism aims to replace the hard problem with the illusion problem; to explain why phenomenal consciousness seems to exist and why the illusion is so powerful. My aim, though broadly illusionist, is to explain why many other false assumptions, or delusions, are so powerful. One reason is a simple mistake in introspection. Asking, ‘Am...
Chapter
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No. Indeed, I am unhappy with the very notion of a “conscious state.” States have to be states of something, so what is dreaming a state of? Here are some possible candidates:
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Article
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Given a curious property of introspection, some common assumptions made about the nature of consciousness may be false. Inquiring into one's own conscious experience "now" produces different answers from inquiring into the immediate past. "Now" consciousness seems to be unified with one conscious self experiencing the contents of a stream of consci...
Article
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In a newspaper survey with 6238 respondents 59 per cent were believers in the paranormal. There was a large sex difference: 70 per cent of females were believers but only 48 per cent of males. Respondents were asked whether a list of 10 statements were true for them, and to estimate numbers true for other people. The ‘probability misjudgment’ theor...
Book
I have been practising Zen for nearly thirty years; not as a Buddhist, but as a scientist with a great dislike of religions and dogma. Fortunately Zen lends itself to deep inquiry and a rejection of orthodoxy and so I have managed not to rebel but to learn from its traditional techniques of calming the mind and looking into the nature of experience...
Book
Is there a theory that explains the essence of consciousness? Or is consciousness itself just an illusion? The 'last great mystery of science', consciousness is a topic that was banned from serious research for most of the last century, but is now an area of increasing popular interest, as well as a rapidly expanding area of study for students of p...
Chapter
Full-text available
Memetics is a theory of cultural evolution based on the idea that behaviors, skills, habits, stories, and technologies that are copied from person to person in culture act as a second replicator. That is, they are information that is copied with variation and selection, and they therefore sustain a new evolutionary process, both cooperating and com...
Book
Traducción de: Conversations on consciousness: Interviews whit Twenty Minds Obra que reproduce las entrevistas realizadas por la autora a 20 intelectuales, entre científicos y filósofos, que se han interesado en indagar sobre el fenómeno de la conciencia. El resultado es un panorama general de su esencia, manifestaciones y complejidad.
Article
First came genes, then memes. Now there's a new replicator loose on the planet. How should we respond – and what should we call it?
Book
I have been practising Zen for nearly thirty years; not as a Buddhist, but as a scientist with a great dislike of religions and dogma. Fortunately Zen lends itself to deep inquiry and a rejection of orthodoxy and so I have managed not to rebel but to learn from its traditional techniques of calming the mind and looking into the nature of experience...
Article
Full-text available
Christiansen & Chater's (C&C's) arguments share with memetics the ideas that language is an evolving organism and that brain capacities shape language by influencing the fitness of memes, although memetics also claims that memes in turn shape brains. Their rejection of meme theory is based on falsely claiming that memes must be consciously selected...
Chapter
Full-text available
Two assumptions are often made about the human capacity for creative imagination: first, that it evolved because it serves a biological function; second, that consciousness is necessary for or is the driving force behind it. I suggest that both of these assumptions are false. I shall argue, instead, that human creativity, like biological creativity...
Article
Jablonka & Lamb (J&L) reject “the dreaded memes,” but memetics can explain human uniqueness and culture (as a product of the ability to imitate) without depending on their slippery notion of symbolism. Modern memes show the beginnings of a division into replicators and vehicles, and the replacement of reconstructive processes with systems of blind...
Article
Full-text available
Am I a mirage?
Book
Sue Blackmore engages in lively conversation with twenty-one leading philosophers and neuroscientists, to find out what they really think about the mind, brain, and consciousness. The result is a lively, readable, and accessible introduction to what some of the world’s best minds think about some of the deepest problems of human existence. Sue tal...
Article
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Memes are not best understood as semantic information stored in brains, but rather, as whatever is imitated or copied in culture. Whereas other theories treat culture as an adaptation, for memetics it is a parasite turned symbiont that evolves for its own sake. Memetics is essential for understanding today's information explosion and the future evo...
Article
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the implications that steels & belpaeme's (s&b's) models have for memetics are discussed. the results demonstrate the power of memes (in this case colour words) to influence both concept formation, and the creation of innate concepts. they provide further evidence for the memetic drive hypothesis, with implications for the evolution of the human br...
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Book
A lively, engaging, and authoritative introduction to the hot topic of consciousness. Serves as a much-needed launch pad for the further exploration of this complicated, controversial, and unresolved issue. Challenges readers to reconsider key concepts such as personality, free will, and the soul. A clear overview of the subject that combines the...
Article
The views of the author Susan Blackmore on the case of the mysterious mind were presented. She stated that a single state of mind is layered with harmonics of meaning. She believed that once we understand brain then there will be no mystery of consciousness left. The author suggested that the ultimate theory of consciuosness must be transparent the...
Article
In this article and the following one, Susan Blackmore and Michael Bradie take contrary positions on the ‘science of memetics’, an approach to explaining human behaviour and culture based on the idea that our minds and cultures are in large part determined by self-replicating gene-like entities called ‘memes’. Memes would seem to allow the applicat...
Book
The ‘last great mystery of science’, consciousness is a topic that was banned from serious research for most of the last century, but is now an area of increasing popular interest, as well as a rapidly expanding area of study for students of psychology, philosophy and neuroscience. This ground-breaking new book by best-selling author Susan Blackmor...
Article
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Setting aside the problems of recognising consciousness in a machine, this article considers what would be needed for a machine to have human-like consciousness. Human-like consciousness is an illusion; that is, it exists but is not what it appears to be. The illusion that we are a conscious self having a stream of experiences is constructed when m...
Article
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A pendant was claimed to provide numerous health benefits, including reduced stress, increased strength, and protection from electromagnetic radiation from computers and mobile phones. Three experiments tested the effectiveness of this pendant's effect as a bioelectric shield. In the first experiment, 12 subjects who work with computers wore shield...
Article
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“The last great mystery of science”; “the most baffling problem in the science of the mind”; this is how scientists talk about consciousness, but what if our conscious experience is all a grand illusion?
Article
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What is all this? What is all this stuff around me; this stream of experiences that I seem to be having all the time? Throughout history there have been people who say it is all illusion. I think they may be right. But if they are right what could this mean? If you just say 'It's all an illusion' this gets you nowhere-- except that a whole lot of o...
Article
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Hall and Van de Castle''s method of content analysis, which has been extensively applied to dream content, was used to analyse SP reports. 64 males and 52 females each contributed one SP report. These were content analysed and compared with dream norms, revealing the similarities between dreams and SP. Findings indicate that, emotionally, SP is a m...
Article
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Eight ESP experiments were carried out to test the psychic claimant David Spark, between October 1998 and July 2000. DS’s main claim was predicting the winners of horse races. Experiments 1 and 2 tested clairvoyance for hidden playing cards and words, but with only a small number of trials. Experiment 3 used a simple computer run ‘horse race’. DS m...
Article
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Who am I? Perhaps this is the only question life really throws at us. Maybe all our scientific endeavours are, one way or another, directed at it. Maybe cosmologists trying to understand the origin of the universe, biologists working on evolution or psychologists studying behaviour are driven by the same desire to know. Or perhaps I shouldn’t speak...
Article
The sensorimotor theory of vision is the best attempt yet to explain visual consciousness without implying a Cartesian theatre. I suggest three experiments which might test the theory.
Article
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Is a bat conscious? Susan Blackmore argues that there must be something radically wrong with the way we are currently thinking about consciousness, or we would not find ourselves with seemingly intractable problems.
Article
S. J. Blackmore and N.J. Rose (1997) reported an experiment that used false memory creation to generate a significant psi effect. This article reports a series of 3 experiments that attempted to replicate this effect and examines the relationship between false memory creation and paranormal belief. Experiment 1 is a faithful replication of the orig...
Chapter
Full-text available
Memetics offers novel solutions to old problems, among them the origins and evolution of the human brain, with its specialised language and unique intelligence. Thus, this chapter justifies that memetics can describe an array of developments, including the rise of big brains, culture, consciousness, and notions of self. It also addresses one furthe...
Article
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The meme is an evolutionary replicator, defined as information copied from person-to-person by imitation. I suggest that taking memes into account may provide a better understanding of human evolution in the following way. Memes appeared in human evolution when our ancestors became capable of imitation. From this time on, two replicators memes and...
Article
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An experiment was designed to try to find out whether women’s relationships are affected by what they read in their horoscopes. Forty-six female undergraduates were randomly assigned to two groups. One group was given a horoscope that contained positive love advice; the other neutral love advice. All participants completed an Astrology Awareness Qu...
Article
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Book
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Humans are extraordinary creatures, with the unique ability among animals to imitate and so copy from one another ideas, habits, skills, behaviours, inventions, songs, and stories. These are all memes, a term first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene. Memes, like genes, are replicators, and this enthralling book is an inv...
Article
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In this article we examine the effects of the emergence of a new replicator, memes, on the evolution of a pre-existing replicator, genes. Using a version of the NKCS model we examine the effects of increasing the rate of meme evolution in relation to the rate of gene evolution, for various degrees of interdependence between the two replicators. Tha...
Book
Traducción de: The mem machine A partir del concepto de meme, voz que acuñó el zoólogo Richard Dawkins en su obra El gen egoísta, la autora intenta exponer que muchos aspectos de la naturaleza humana tienen una mejor explicación base en una teoría memética que desde otros supuestos teóricos. Susan Blackmore desarrolla sus hipótesis acerca de cómo l...
Article
What would it take for an artificial system to have something like human consciousness? Central to human consciousness is subjectivity and the notion of an experiencing self. It is argued that the self is more like a story or myth than a persisting entity that has free will and consciousness. Memes are information passed from one person to another...
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The role of anoxia in near-death experiences (NDEs) has been hotly debated. Some argue that anoxia can induce NDEs; others that its effects are quite different. Children suffering from reflex anoxic seizures (RAS) have repeated brief cardiac arrests. A questionnaire about their experiences was sent to members of the British RAS Support Group; 112 q...
Article
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The dictionary definition, and Dawkins's (1976) original conception of the meme, both include the idea that memes are copied from one person to another by imitation. We therefore need to be clear what is meant by imitation. Imitation is distinguished from contagion, individual learning and various kinds of non-imitative social learning such as stim...
Article
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Psychic experiences are frequently reported to occur in situations or states of consciousness in which reality and imagination are confused. This may be either because such confusions lead people to mistake normal events for paranormal ones, or because psi is facilitated in some way by the uncertainty. On the former hypothesis, we would expect expe...

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Projects

Projects (3)
Project
To continue exploring the nature of self, consciousness and free will – taking an illusionist approach to all three.
Project
To explore the potential of memetics as a science and to work on the idea that there may already be a third replicator on earth – tremes – digital information evolving beyond our control.
Project
To understand how tunnels, lights, life reviews, out-of-body experiences and visions of other worlds can be explained in naturalistic terms. To assess the evidence and many claims for consciousness beyond bodily death.