The study of human consciousness has demonstrated that there are both conscious and unconscious systems. Other work, particularly in animals, has shown that there are habit and nonhabit systems and that these involve different brain regions and memory processes. Here we argue that habits can be equated with unconscious behavior and nonhabits with conscious behavior. This equation makes the extensive physiological literature on habit/nonhabit relevant to the less tractable issue of consciousness. On the basis of this line of reasoning, it appears that different parts of the BG and different memory structures mediate conscious and unconscious processes. It is further argued here that the unconscious system is highly capable; it can both process sensory information and produce behavior. The benefit of such a dual system is multitasking: The unconscious system can execute background tasks, leaving the conscious system to perform more difficult tasks.

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