Some philosophers of mind have argued that consciousness is a form of user illusion which argues that conscious experience does not expose objective reality, instead it provides a simplified version of reality that allows the user, humans, to make decisions and act in their environment, akin to a computer desktop. According to this picture, our experience of the world is not immediate, as all sensation requires processing time. It follows that our conscious experience is less a perfect reflection of what is occurring, and more a simulation produced unconsciously by the brain. Therefore, there may be phenomena that exist beyond our peripheries, beyond what consciousness could create to isolate or reduce them.
This notion is explored by Tor Nørretranders in his 1991 Danish book Mærk verden, issued in a 1998 English edition as The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. He introduced the idea of exformation in this book. Philosopher Daniel Dennett has also embraced the view that human consciousness is a "user-illusion".
Benjamin Libet conducted an experiment that supports the consciousness user illusion. This study investigated the relation between our conscious and unconscious mind. Subjects wired with measuring electrodes were asked to move a finger. A half-second before the decision is made to flex the muscle, an electrical signal is detected in the brain. Astonishingly, the decision seems to be made by unconscious neurons before the self becomes aware of its desire to act. This study suggests that consciousness is the initiator. However, our subconscious minds process information and make decisions on what to distribute to our conscious mind before we are aware.
The user illusion proposes that consciousness is an evolutionary tool utilized to enhance social behavior and cooperation. Social insects provide an argument against this conclusion as these insects experience social cooperation and complex groupthink. Critics argue that the existence of social insects with extremely small brains falsifies the notion that social behavior requires consciousness, citing that insects have too small brains to be conscious and yet there are observed behaviors among them that for all functional intents and purposes match those of complex social cooperation and manipulation (including hierarchies where each individual has its place among paper wasps and Jack Jumper ants and honey bees sneaking when they lay eggs). These critics also argue that since social behavior in insects and other extremely small-brained animals have evolved multiple times independently, there is no evolutionary difficulty in simple reaction sociality to impose selection pressure for the more nutrient-consuming path of consciousness for sociality. These critics do point out that other evolutionary paths to consciousness are possible, such as critical evaluation that enhances plasticity by criticizing fallible notions, while pointing out that such a critical consciousness would be quite different from the justificatory type proposed by Nørretranders, differences including that a critical consciousness would make individuals more capable of changing their minds instead of justifying and persuading.
Daniel Dennett proposes that human experiences with conscious free will are human biological mechanisms creating a user representation. If consciousness is just the data in the human mind creating a user illusion then this supports the theory that free will may not exist. Many philosophers propose that while free will and consciousness are very separate entities, free will may build upon the idea of consciousness. Free will can be defined philosophically as the ability of an individual to determine the course of their actions uninhibited by any other force. If consciousness does not exist then it can be proposed that humans have little action over their decisions and biology is the driving force behind human decision making. Many philosophers disagree with this as much of human decision making has developed complexities that cannot be solely explained by evolutionary biology.
An indicative example is chronostasis resulting from the rapid movement of the eyes (the saccade) to a new target resulting in the stopped-clock illusion. The second hand appears to have a longer immediate delay before moving than subsequently because the brain anticipates the saccade. See further Knoll et al. (2013). 2b1af7f3a8