The transition from subconscious to conscious thought and recognition of “ideas”

Awareness shall be defined as the momentary presence of a visualization or perception in the foreground of thought (activation state), in contrast to memorized visualizations or memorized perceptions. Only thought in this state leads to consequential reflexes or other reactions. Consciousness of a thought shall be defined as the retention of a thought or perception in short-term memory, which acts as a temporary focus.

The larger concept of “consciousness” and self-awareness, as used in philosophy, is possibly nothing but a virtual effect resulting from remembered thought, and is as developed among living beings (and futuristic computers) from the capacity for the memorization of thought and complex associative linkage of such thought. Consequently, “self-awareness” and “consciousness” are proportional to the capacity (quantity and duration) of memory for thoughts and perceptions and to their associative interconnectivity (addressability, usability). Negatively worded, when there is no memory for thoughts and perceptions, there is no related consciousness. In other words, availability and associative linkage of memory of one’s own thought (and perceptions, including communicated thought) is necessary and sufficient to explain “consciousness” in the philosophical and psychological sense.

It is known that short-term memory is limited, and long-term memory requires prior short-term memory retention. Consequently, only a fraction of the very large amount of frontal lobe signal activities (thoughts) leads to memorization and consequent consciousness. Most thought remains in the subconscious and is not memorized. However, everybody has experienced how subconscious thought or new perceptions can appear inadvertently in consciousness.

Fourth premise or hypothesis: “The transition of a thought phase (visualization) from subconscious thought to awareness and appearance in consciousness (appearance of an idea) is based on its attaining sufficient signal intensity (nerval firing rate). Such increase in firing rate can possibly result from significant back-referencing to an earlier focus.”

In practical terms: The signal strength of neurons in the frontal lobes is initiated primarily through associative triggering, mostly of large groups of nerves constituting a visualization. Among visualizations or thought phases, it is postulated that only those of sufficient competitive signal strength gain access to short-term memory (awareness). This is very much in line with the economy of biological functions.

In other words, the appearance of a sudden “idea” results from the back-referencing of a much later, possibly subconscious thought phase to an earlier focus, with sufficient resulting signal strength that appearance in awareness is produced. Such substantial signal strength (firing rate) may result from the synaptic match or the perceived consequences of such back-referencing. Two typical examples from the literature on creativity, Kekule’s idea for the benzene ring and Poincaré’s solution for the Fuchsian Functions, can be interpreted that way.

As stated before, with personal “valuation” and perceived consequences being so important in synaptic coupling and thought phase activation, psychological factors and temperament significantly influence idea recognition or idea generation.

It is known that calming of the brain generally leads from dominant left-side thought to otherwise subconscious right-side thought. Therefore, many of the sudden and very important “ideas” have occurred during periods of relaxation and have the holistic and three-dimensional aspects of right-side thought (as the discovery of the benzene ring by Kekule, who had studied architecture in his earlier years). Right-side thought is more holistic, possibly due to the greater distances in synaptic connections or cross-connections (see the larger amount of white material). Therefore, right-side concepts can often be “fuzzy”, not leading to “fuzzy logic” (a misnomer) but to “logic with fuzzy concepts”. This makes the human mind so extremely successful in the many unclear phases of practical life. Therefore, calming (de-focusing) of the left side of the brain, in order to provide conscious access to the often nondominant right side of the brain may be an important technique for creativity improvement (3 & 16).