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Chapter 9 part 1.docx

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYA01H3
Professor
Steve Joordens
Semester
Winter

Description
CHAPTER 9: Consciousness: PART 1: Consciousness as a Social Phenomenon Can We Understand Consciousness? 3 positions about consciousness: it is not a natural phenomena; consciousness is a natural phenomenon but we cannot understand it; people are indeed conscious, this consciousness is produced by activity of the human brain, we can understand this phenomenon (supported by Donald Hebb) Donald Hebb: consciousness, a variable state, is a present activity of thought processes in some form and thought itself is an activity of the brain The Adaptive Significance of Consciousness: We must not confuse consciousness with complex mental processes like perceiving, remembering, or thinking Consciousness is the awareness of these processes not the processes themselves Therefore consciousness is a characteristics that exists in addition to functions such as perception, memory, thinking, planning Think of consciousness as a by product of a characteristic of the brain that has a useful function The factors of natural selection that favour this other characteristic would also be the factors that favour consciousness Consciousness does not refer to a thing; consciousness does not exist; instead humans have to ability to be conscious It is a private experience that cannot be shared directly We conclude that other people are conscious because they are like us and because they tell us that they too are conscious However, we are not conscious of everything about ourselves nor are we equally conscious of the same thing all the time Consciousness is not a general property of all parts of the brain i.e. blind sight: the ability to interact behaviourally with objects while remaining consciously basically, it is the ability to reach for objects accurately while remaining unaware of seeing them (caused by damage to visual cortex or pathways leading to visual cortex) a part of our visual system can control our ability to react to the presence of objects without necessarily giving the information needed for us to describe or think about the objects the principal evidence we have of consciousness comes through the use of language our ability to communicate provides us with self awareness self awareness is then built on inner speech (which allows us to describe our behaviours and compare them to others) thus consciousness is a social phenomenon Consciousness and the Ability to Communicate 2 factors of communication: 1. We must be able to translate private events into symbolic expressions 2. Our words must have an effect on the person listening (must affect their own thoughts, perceptions, memories, and behaviour) This means that we can communicate with ourselves Thinking in words involves subvocal articulation Therefore the brain mechanisms that permits us to understand words and produce speech are the same ones we use to think in words i.e. when deaf people are thinking to themselves, they often make small movements with their hands (just like we sometimes talk under our breath when we are thinking to ourselves) the ability to communicate with ourselves symbolically gives rise to consciousness i.e. experiment by Cheesman and Merikle: a) they presented people with a word (the prime) that was congruent or incongruent with the colour of a subsequent patch of colour b) they were asked to name the colour of the target (which is difficult to do when the prime is incongruent) THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE STROOP EFFECT c) at times, a random jumble of letters (a mask) was presented after the prime before the target d) when the mask was presented right after the prime, people were unable to identify the prime (they were not conscious of it) e) when the mask was presented after a suitable delay, consciousness was not impaired f) CONCLUSION: incongruent primes produce a stroop-like interference even when the mask interfered with the conscious ability to identify the meaning of the prime CONCLUSION: conscious awareness has this property: we become able to describe, and thereby use, the psychological events that are private to ourselves However this does not necessarily show that consciousness adds anything to our ability to process information Most forms of communication in animals is automatic and do not involve consciousness However, brain mechanisms, such as those of the explicit memory system may be present in species closely related to ours Consciousness and the Control of Behaviour: Many find it pointless to explain something that we can observe (behaviour) in terms of something we cannot observe (consciousness) Recall Rene Descartes Rene Descartes view on human nature: human actions were controlled by a non material mind; theory of dualism His theory of dualism does not properly explain behaviour yet his idea that conscious thoughts control our movements seems like common sense Recall William James William James view of human nature: our emotional awareness comes after a reaction; we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble His theory is an alternative way of thinking of consciousness Some new evidence from cognitive psychology uses the phenomenon of visual illusions to explain consciousness For example, the two crayons illusion The crayons are the same size, yet the horizontal crayon looks shorter AKA TOP HAT ILLUSION The crayon optical illusion led to research done by Goodale and colleagues METHOD: STEP 1: they showed people a wooden block on a table and asked them whether the block as wide or narrow Then they replaced the block with another block and asked whether the block was wide or narrow This process was repeated several times FINDINGS: if the blocks were the same length, it was easy to judge the width. However, if the blocks vary in length, width judgment is more difficult. This proves that shape is holistic METHOD: STEP 2: Goodale and Ganel asked the participants to grasp the blocks across the middle FINDINGS: their grasping action was not affected by variation in length IMPLICATIONS: our perceptual awareness of objects must be based on a different visual system than the one we use for actions Ebbinghaus Illusion CONCLUSION: actions are little affected by visual illusion i.e. Ebbinghaus illusion the central circle on the left looks larger than the one on the right (because our
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