Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Consciousness: A Strategy for Behavioral Decisions

Version 1 : Received: 7 October 2022 / Approved: 10 October 2022 / Online: 10 October 2022 (14:49:33 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Grinde, B. Consciousness: A Strategy for Behavioral Decisions. Encyclopedia 2023, 3, 60-76. Grinde, B. Consciousness: A Strategy for Behavioral Decisions. Encyclopedia 2023, 3, 60-76.


Definition: Most multicellular animals have a nervous system that is based on the following three components: 1) Sensory cells gather information and send it to processing units; 2) the processing units use the information to decide on what action to take; and 3) effector neurons activate the appropriate muscles. Due to the importance of making the right decisions, evolution made profound advances in the processing units. I shall review present knowledge regarding the evolution of neurological tools for making decisions, here referred to as strategies or algorithms. Consciousness can be understood as a particularly sophisticated strategy. It may have evolved to allow for the use of feelings as a ‘common currency’ to evaluate behavioral options. The advanced cognitive capacity of species such as humans further improved the usefulness of consciousness, yet in biological terms it does not seem to be an optimal, fitness-enhancing strategy. A model for the gradual evolution of consciousness is presented. There is a somewhat arbitrary cutoff as to which animals have consciousness but based on current information it seems reasonable to restrict the term to amniotes.


evolution; consciousness; nervous systems; feelings; reflexes; instincts; amniotes; behavioral decisions; neuronal algorithms


Social Sciences, Behavior Sciences

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