ArticlePDF Available
published: 14 May 2021
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.675976
Frontiers in Psychology | 1May 2021 | Volume 12 | Article 675976
Edited and reviewed by:
Antonino Raffone,
Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Da Dong
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Consciousness Research,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 04 March 2021
Accepted: 30 March 2021
Published: 14 May 2021
Zhang J and Dong D (2021) Book
Review: Brain, Mind and
Front. Psychol. 12:675976.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.675976
Book Review: Brain, Mind and
Jing Zhang 1and Da Dong 2
1School of Marxism, Institute of Philosophy, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Hangzhou, China, 2Department of Philosophy,
Center for the Study of Language and Cognition, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
Keywords: brain, mind, consciousness, mental activities, components of consciousness, unified theory of
psychology and cognition
A Book Review on
Brain, Mind and Consciousness
Xiaowei Tang (Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press), 2016, 246 pages, ISBN: 9787308153676
Until now, the problem of consciousness is famously open to diverse sorts of philosophical and
scientific solutions. With the aid of neurotechnology, some researchers acknowledge that the
science of consciousness is a “well-established field of empirical research” (Doerig et al., 2020,
p. 1), while other people disagree. Nevertheless, almost nobody deems a promising approach
to this problem without unraveling the crux of (human) brain (for recent discussions, see, e.g.,
Gennaro, 2018). Xiaowei Tang, academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and a highly esteemed
physicist and interdisciplinary scientist, asserts that a general theory of integration is reasonably
able to underwrite the mind–brain relationship and the riddle of consciousness. In Brain, Mind
and Consciousness (Tang, 2016), Tang argues that a unified theory of psychology and an integrated
approach to brain and cognition can be drawn based on the integration of mental interactions
(p. 1).
This book divides into 20 chapters across five parts. As a well-disciplined physicist, Tang
tends to see brain, mind, and consciousness separately due to integration in various levels of
explanations, drawing transferable methodologically micro–macro integration of conception from
physics. Thus, in the “Preface,” Tang says the book gives a sketch of five forms of interactions in the
mental world: mental components interaction, mind–brain interaction, mind–body interaction,
mind–environment interaction, and mind–society interaction (p. 1). Afterwards, he discusses
“Brain” (Part I), “Mind” (Part II), “Consciousness” (Part III), “Dreaming” (Part IV), and “Unified
Theories of Psychology and Cognition” (Part V), successively.
Part I (Chapters 1–3) focuses on the integration of brain, of which neural architectures are
regarded as the most reliable empirical basis of mental integration. Tang proposes a theory dubbed
as Four Functional Systems (FFS) (of the brain) according to aspects of the hierarchical neural
systems. Historically, FFS is in the prospects of extending Alexander Luria’s theory of Three
Functional Systems (Luria, 1973). The first subsystem makes preparations for potentiation, brain
activation, and awareness states; the second one receives, processes, and stores the incoming
sensory information; the third one formulates and regulates subsequent mental activities and
behaviors; and the last one evaluates stored information and then, in turn, generates emotional
feelings. Thus, the complexity of the brain—as an integrated whole—is identical to the brain’s
quaternary functional systems.
Part II (Chapters 4–6) centers on the integration of mind. Tang treats unconscious mental
activities as the prerequisites of consciousness. Furthermore, associating with FFS, he points out
Zhang and Dong Book Review: Brain, Mind and Consciousness
that the mind is involved with four components: arousal,
cognition, emotion, and volition (pp. 28–30). These
components—the tetrads of amind—are neither operated
separately nor combined mechanically. They interact with each
other in a self-organizing way.
Part III (Chapters 7–12) showcases Tang’s theory of
consciousness. In Chapter 7, correspondingly, he proposes
Four Components of Consciousness (FCC). Consciousness
is composed of four elements: awareness, content, intention,
and emotion (p. 51). Tang tries to link the arousal states
of consciousness with the energy states of (human) brain
anatomical regions. He believes that the interactions of
brain regions fundamentally result in those regions’ transferable
variable states. In particular, based on Fechner’s interpretations of
external and internal psychophysics, Tang adopts mathematical
and physical methods to illustrate consciousness. In his view,
consciousness is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon; the
emergence of consciousness has a process. Rigorous formulas
can describe this process and the relationship between brain and
mind (p. 90–95).
Part IV (Chapters 13–17) discusses dreaming. Studies have
shown that most dreams appear during rapid eye movement.
Neurotechnologies, such as electroencephalogram, can record
the activation and dynamic changes of different brain regions
during dreams, indicating that information processing continues.
Information processing occurs during both dreaming and waking
states, but the same neural basis corresponds to different
characteristics. For dreaming is a unique state of consciousness,
understanding the nature of dreaming is of great significance to
understanding consciousness.
Finally, based on the previous four sections’ empirical and
theoretical support, Part V (Chapters 18–20) gets ready to
construct a unified theory of psychology and cognition. Both
psychologists and cognitive scientists aspire to a unified theory
of the mind as physicists have expected (simply relatively
speaking) in the material realm. Resorting to a general theory
of physical and mental integration, Tang plans a Grand Unified
Psychology program, whose theoretical framework consists of
four parts: (1) central viewpoints and methods of studying
psychology and behavioral science, (2) critical examinations
of theories in various sub-fields of psychology and somewhat
convergent psychological phenomena, (3) essentials of unifying
various research fields and disciplines of psychology, and (4)
essentials of unifying the research diagram. Tang stresses the
significance of studying the mind from mental integration
(and psychological interaction). Elsewhere, Tang advocates the
following: the processes and phenomena of cognition are
only one dimension of the psychological realm; consequently,
it is necessary to study different (mental) interactions of
psychological experiences and feelings involving cognition, such
as understanding, evaluating, and monitoring. In short, the
units and correlations of various mental interactions involving
cognition and feelings are indispensable.
Throughout the book, Tang attempts to systematically grasp
the interdisciplinary advances of physics, psychology, brain
science, medicine, and technical science and present his mind
and consciousness theory (FFS and FCC). In the end, he offers
a sketch of a unified program of psychological and cognitive
sciences. This book epitomizes Tang’s research on mind, brain,
and consciousness over the past two decades and could be seen as
the forefront of Chinese scholars’ research on consciousness. And
in a way the above system that the book contains is so extensive
that some fascinating details, such as experimental studies on
mind wandering and quantitative studies of consciousness,
cannot be specifically presented. Just as Kandel (2018) has stated,
“determining the nature of consciousness is one of the greatest
scientific challenges of the twenty-first century, so answers
will not come quickly or easily,” the theories and program
proposed by Tang in this book need to be scrutinized further
by contemporaries.
JZ and DD wrote the manuscript, with larger contributions
by JZ. DD then provided edits and suggestions for revision.
Both authors contributed to the article and approved the
submitted version.
This work was supported by the National Social
Science Foundation (20CZX015 and 20FZXB017) and
China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2019T120530
and 2019M652134).
Doerig, A., Schurger, A., and Herzog, M. H. (2020). Hard
criteria for empirical theories of consciousness. Cogn.
Neurosci. 12, 41–62. doi: 10.1080/17588928.2020.177
Gennaro, R. J. (ed.). (2018). The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness. New York,
NY; London: Routledge.
Kandel, E. R. (2018). The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About
Ourselves. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Luria, A. (1973). The Working Brain: An Introduction
to Neuropsychology. New York, NY: Basic
Tang, X. (2016). Brain, Mind, and Consciousness. Hangzhou: Zhejiang
University Press.
Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2021 Zhang and Dong. This is an open-access article distributed
under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use,
distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original
author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication
in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use,
distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Frontiers in Psychology | 2May 2021 | Volume 12 | Article 675976
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Full-text available
Consciousness is now a well-established field of empirical research. A large body of experimental results has been accumulated and is steadily growing. In parallel, many Theories of Consciousness (ToCs) have been proposed. These theories are diverse in nature, ranging from computational to neurophysiological and quantum theoretical approaches. This contrasts with other fields of natural science, which host a smaller number of competing theories. We suggest that one reason for this abundance of extremely different theories may be the lack of stringent criteria specifying how empirical data constrains ToCs. First, we argue that consciousness is a well-defined topic from an empirical point of view and motivate a purely empirical stance on the quest for consciousness. Second, we present a checklist of criteria that, we propose, empirical ToCs need to cope with. Third, we review 13 of the most influential ToCs and subject them to the criteria. Our analysis helps to situate these different ToCs in the theoretical landscapeand sheds light on their strengths and weaknesses from a strictly empirical point of view.
There has been an explosion of work on consciousness in the last 30-40 years from philosophers, psychologists, and neurologists. Thus, there is a need for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive volume in the field that brings together contributions from a wide range of experts on fundamental and cutting-edge topics. The Routledge Handbook of Consciousness fills this need and makes each chapter’s importance understandable to students and researchers from a variety of backgrounds. Designed to complement and better explain primary sources, this volume is a valuable “first-stop” publication for undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in any course on “Consciousness,” “Philosophy of Mind,” or “Philosophy of Psychology,” as well as a valuable handbook for researchers in these fields who want a useful reference to have close at hand. The 34 chapters, all published here for the first time, are divided into three parts: • Part I covers the “History and Background Metaphysics” of consciousness, such as dualism, materialism, free will, and personal identity, and includes a chapter on Indian philosophy. • Part II is on specific “Contemporary Theories of Consciousness,” with chapters on representational, information integration, global workspace, attention-based, and quantum theories. • Part III is entitled “Major Topics in Consciousness Research,” with chapters on psychopathologies, dreaming, meditation, time, action, emotion, multisensory experience, animal and robot consciousness, and the unity of consciousness. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction and concludes with a list of “Related Topics,” as well as a list of “References,” making the volume indispensable for the newcomer and experienced researcher alike.
The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves
  • E R Kandel
  • Straus Farrar
  • Giroux
  • A Luria
Kandel, E. R. (2018). The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Luria, A. (1973). The Working Brain: An Introduction to Neuropsychology. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Brain, Mind, and Consciousness
  • X Tang
Tang, X. (2016). Brain, Mind, and Consciousness. Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press.