Lucia Melloni, PhD - Advancing science and theory development through open science adversarial collaboration

Lucia Melloni Presenter
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Frankfurt am Main
Thursday, Jun 27: 10:30 AM - 11:15 AM
Keynote Lectures 
Room: Hall D 2 
There are many mysteries in the universe. One of the most significant, often considered the final frontier in science, is understanding how our subjective experience, or consciousness, emerges from the collective action of neurons in biological systems. Despite decades of research, a comprehensive explanation for how consciousness emerges from neural activity remains elusive due to conflicting theories and confirmation biases. To address this, we advocate for adversarial collaboration—a model of team science aimed at rigorously testing theories of consciousness by bringing together diverse perspectives. This presentation serves three purposes: First, it offers a concise overview of the current state of consciousness science, where theories have developed in parallel, often showing signs of confirmation bias. Second, it proposes adversarial collaboration as a means to bridge theoretical divides and facilitate rigorous theory testing. The focus is on contrasting the Global Neuronal Workspace (GNW) Theory and the Integrated Information Theory (IIT) through uniform experimental methods. Third, it discusses the COGITATE consortium's efforts in implementing this approach, particularly through two experiments across six laboratories. Specifically, we will focus on Experiment 1, where stimuli of varying visibility and duration are presented in different task contexts to assess critical aspects of GNW and IIT using a multilab, multimethod (MEG, fMRI, and Invasive EEG) approach. We will describe the path from divergent claims of GNW and IIT to the core of their testable predictions to reveal how each of the findings justifies or challenges the theories. Further, we will discuss how robust theory testing requires testing across multiple predictions, which, together, provide convergent or divergent evidence for a given theoretical position. I will conclude with some thoughts on the challenges that structured adversarial collaboration approaches face in the sociology of science.