The mind is a difficult thing to understand. And to get a handle on how it works requires not just a biological, but also a psychological and philosophical approach, say those in the field of cognitive science, a 30-year-old discipline that now seems to be making headway in its quest to understand thought and the mind's function.

"The bottom line is, we're a bunch of blind men searching for a black cat in a dark room. You grab at anything you can get," says Jonathan D. Cohen, a cognitive neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "We are trying very hard to make the best of the tools we have in order to make headway on a very complex and challenging problem." To understand human consciousness, researchers in formerly disparate fields have to effectively communicate with each other. "The real key is the interaction of disciplines," Cohen says.

Cohen works...

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