University of Sussex
Skora, Lina I..pdf (3.45 MB)

The role of body, action, and consciousness in adaptive interactions with the world: An investigation of instrumental learning

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posted on 2023-06-09, 22:10 authored by Paulina SkoraPaulina Skora
Recent years have seen an increasing theoretical and empirical appreciation of bodily influences on adaptive processes. The body and action are proposed to play a central part in our interactions with the world through motivating behaviours, colouring perception with emotion, and shaping conscious experience. Instrumental learning is a fundamental substrate of adaptive behaviour, and can be used as a vehicle to understand the relationships between those processes. This work investigates the impact of bodily information and the need for conscious access in instrumental learning, as well as whether instrumentally learned, active associations shape conscious experience. Chapters 2 and 3 ask whether cardiac information affects simple forms of adaptive behaviour, such as unconscious instrumental conditioning. The results show evidence for absence of unconscious learning, in contrast to previous reports, and absence of any learning-related cardiac activity without stimulus awareness. Together, those chapters show that instrumental conditioning may require conscious awareness. Chapters 4 and 5 further investigate the feasibility of unconscious instrumental learning. Chapter 4 is a Stage 1 Registered Replication of a prominent paradigm demonstrating unconscious instrumental learning, leveraging statistical and methodological advances. Chapter 5 constitutes a conceptual replication of the same paradigm in two modes of conditioning – trace and delay – demonstrating absence of successful instrumental conditioning without conscious awareness. Chapter 6 shifts focus from the body on the inside to the body on the outside, using instrumental learning to examine the effect of action on our conscious experience. The results demonstrate that access to consciousness is facilitated by our instrumental actions in the world. Overall, this body of work extends the current understanding of instrumental learning as a fundamental component of adaptive behaviour, showing that conscious access is required to drive adaptive interactions with the world, and to further shape our conscious perception in line with action.


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University of Sussex

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