“First, attention is a physical process in the brain, whereas awareness is in the form of knowledge that the brain can potentially report. Second, although the content of awareness and the content of attention overlap most of the time, it is sometimes possible to attend to a stimulus without being aware of it. In that case, the brain’s reportable knowledge about what is currently “in mind” becomes dissociated from what it is actually attending to, suggesting that like all representations constructed by the brain awareness is an imperfect model.” -- Yin T. Kelly, Taylor W. Webb, Jeffrey D. Meier, Michael J. Arcaro, and Michael S. A. Graziano Attributing awareness to oneself and to others (2014) PNAS Early Edition (approved February 21, 2014) www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1401201111
“Awareness is the brain’s simplified schematic model of the complicated, data handling process of attention.” - Consciousness and the Social Brain by Michael S. A. Graziano; (2013) Oxford University Press. p. 156 (Kindle)
We are animals with brains. Awareness evolved because it helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. Brains produce awareness. Awareness tracks attention, most of the time. Awareness is a constantly updated experience of our dynamically changing state of attention. Attention enhances signals and reflects competition among signals in the brain. Attention is a form of brain behavior. Awareness allows the brain to understand that behavior, its dynamic and consequences. Awareness is “experienceness” (Graziano 2013).
Awareness is a type of representation. All representations are simplifications, however: not perfectly accurate but good enough to “keep track of the essentials” (Graziano 2013, Kindle p 1144).
None of this is magic. Awareness belongs to the masses. There is not an elite who possess awareness in greater abundance than the hoi polloi. Awareness is something the human brain does.