Is it really consciousness that collapses the wave-function in quantum superposition?

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My understanding of quantum superposition is that a wave-collapse occurs via observation BUT in regards to measuring the particle, NOT necessarily observing it in some way via our consciousness. However, in some articles, the implication is that CONSCIOUSNESS itself is the CAUSE of the wave-function collapse and NOT necessarily the act of measuring where the particle is located (i.e., one not need measure anything, just “observe” the state of the particle via some thought process alone). I don’t know too much about quantum mechanics, so I’d like to get more information about this. If consciousness along can collapse this wave, via thoughts alone, and make a particle stable, then it’s akin to paranormal phenomena. I hope someone can explain this to me. Thanks.

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My head is beginning to hurt.

Brent L

You should read Wikipedia’s entry on wave function collapse. It describes a number of competing hypotheses to explain the phenomenon. I like the decoherence model and the Many Worlds interpretation (don’t know which I like better). The idea that consciousness collapses the wave function is not generally favored.


No. Any observation, by a human, mouse, computer, whatever, will collapse the wavefunction. If you have a computer measure it and print out the answer, an answer is there on the paper, the wavefunction has been collapsed, whether you have read the answer yet or not. Consciousness is not necessary.


No, you don’t need an observer to make a superposition collapse. What is needed is that the information is there, and can be observed. The information is there if you perform the experiment that leads to the observation, it does not matter if anyone records the outcome, and therefore it does not matter whether anyone observes the output from the recorder.
If a conscious observer was needed, you could eavesdrop quantum transmission. If you perform the measurement, but do not read the result before later, those making the transmission would not discover the eavesdropping before too late.

Jason Feather

A conscious observer is indeed needed to collapse the wave function but most physicists cling to the old paradigm of determinism and are quite afraid of the implications of this, so much so that they favour the many worlds (a literal infinite number of universes created every micro second) theory which I see as almost as ridiculous as most physicists see the role of a conscious observer to be.
It is only at the point that the observer becomes aware of the results that the function has said to have collapsed. The results of the delayed choice quantum eraser experiments demonstrate this but also raise even bigger philosoohical implications!


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