The fact that consciousness is a private, first–person phenomenon makes it more difficult to study than other cognitive phenomena that, although being equally private, also have characteristic behavioural signatures. Nonetheless, by combining cognitive and neurobiological methods, it is possible to approach consciousness, to describe its cognitive nature, its behavioural correlates, its possible evolutionary origin and functional role; last but not least, it is possible to investigate its neuroanatomical and neurophysiological underpinnings. In this brief essay I distinguish between two kinds of consciousness: core consciousness and extended consciousness. Core consciousness corresponds to the transient process that is incessantly generated relative to any object with which an organism interacts, and during which a transient core self and transient sense of knowing are automatically generated. Core consciousness requires neither language nor working memory, and needs only a brief short–term memory. Extended consciousness is a more complex process. It depends on the gradual build–up of an autobiographical self, a set of conceptual memories pertaining to both past and anticipated experiences of an individual, and it requires conventional memory. Extended consciousness is enhanced by language.