Abstract: One possible explanation of awareness is that it is a construct of the social perceptual machinery. Humans have specialized neuronal machinery that allows us to be socially intelligent. The primary role for this machinery is to construct models of other people--minds thereby gaining some ability to predict the behavior of other individuals. In the present hypothesis, specific cortical machinery, notably in the superior temporal sulcus and the temporo-parietal junction, is used to build the construct of awareness and attribute it to other people. The same cortical machinery, in this hypothesis, is also used to attribute awareness to oneself. Damage to this cortical machinery can lead to disruptions in consciousness such as hemispatial neglect. In this theory, the value of the construct of awareness, and the value of attributing it to a person, is to gain a useful predictive model of that person--attentional processing. Attention is a style of information processing in the brain in which neuronal signals compete. One interrelated set of signals rises in strength at the expense of others, and thereby dominates the control of behavior. Awareness, in the present hypothesis, is a construct, a useful schema, that models the dynamics and essential properties of attention. To be aware of X is to construct a model of one--attentional focus on X. A brain concludes it is aware of X, and assigns a high degree of certainty to that conclusion, and reports that conclusion, because of an informational model that depicts awareness of X.
Graziano MSA and Kastner S (2011) Human consciousness and its relationship to social neuroscience: A novel hypothesis. Cognitive Neuroscience, 2: 98-113.