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Lecture

Consciousness

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC 2520
Professor
Hernan Humana
Semester
Fall

Description
Chapter 9: Consciousness Consciousness as a Social Phenomenon first position on consciousness is that it is not a natural phenomenon and that it is supernatural and miraculous not to be understood by human mind second position is tha consciousness is natural phenomenon but also that we cannot understand it for various reasons exists because of nature of human brain our brains cannot grasp concept do not have methods to study it yet poorly defined third position is that consciousness is produced by activity of brain and that we should be optimistic about our ability to understand it (Hebb) The Adaptive Significance of Consciousness consciousness is awareness of processes in brain, not processes themselves consciousness does not exist humans have ability to be conscious most likley explanation for consciousness lies in its relation to deliberate, symbollic communicaion our ability to communicate (words, signs, other symbollic meaning) provides us with self-awareness --> social phenomenon (like communication) Consciousness and the Ability to Communicate through communicating symbolically we can express our needs, thoughts, perceptions, memories, intentions, and feelings to other people require 2 general capacities: must be able to translate private events (needs, thoughts, etc) into symbolic expressions brain mechanisms we use to communicate with others must receive input from systems of brain involved in perceiving, thinking , remembering, etc our symbols (words) must have effect on other person listening once words are decoded in listener's brain they must affect listener's own thoughts, perceptions, memories and behaviour having both of these capabilities allows us to communicate with ourselves thinking in words involves subvocal ariculation brain mechanisms that permit us to understand words and produce speech are same ones we use to think in words ability to communicate with ourselves symbolically gives rise to consciousness conscious of private events we can talk about to others or ourselves: our needs, perceptions, intentions, memories, and feelings people who are deaf sometimes think with their hands people mouth words to themselves experiment by Cheesman and Merikle presented people with word (primer) that was either congruent or incongruent with coloour of subsequent stimulus (target) and people were asked to name target; between primer and target on some trials there was random jumble of visual lines found that incongruent primers produced Stroop-like interference even when jumble interfered with ability to consciously identify word presented same experiment with many more congruent than incongruent primes so that by using primer people could predict what colour was about to come when primer was consciously perceivable people used it to predict target but when it was not consciously perceived people failed to use it consclusions: we become able to describe and thereby use psychological events tha are private to ourselves some animals are conscious dogs can learn to communicate with owner by communicating symbolically underlying brain mechanisms, such as those of explicit memory system may be present in species closely related to us behaviour of primates in mirror suggest they have concept of self-awareness computer could learn to communicate symbolically with itself and us Evaluating Scientific Issues: Does Conscious Thought Control Behaviour previously psychologists would not study consciousness because it was not observable behaviour Descartes thought human actions were controlled by non-material mind (dualism); William James thought emotional awareness came after reaction recent evidence from cognitive psychology and neuropsychology provides way of thinking about issue of conscious control of behaviour some evidence uses phenomenon of visual illusions 2 crayons horizontal looks shorter (top hat illusion - because it is often demonstrated using judgments about crown vs brim of hat) Ganel and Goodale compared perceptual judgments of object shape with ability to pick up object and showed people wooden block on table and asked them whether block was wider or narrow and repeated with different blocks easy to judge width if blocks are all same length but if length was different then task was difficult grasping actions was not affected by variation in length perceptual awareness of objects may be based on different visual system than one we use for actions Ebbinghau illusion circle surrounded by big circles looks smaller than circle surrounded by small circles but if you were to reach for them your behaviour would be unaffected by relative size introspective experiences would tell us that they were diferent in size but behaviour would reflect otherwise thought and action go together but is correlation could be third action of brain that causes action and thought Libet asked people to make hand motion while watching rapidly moving clock hand and were to report where clock hand was at time they became aware of an intention to move reports indicated that they experienced awareness of intention 3/10 of a second before motion also measured readiness potential - electrical brain activity of motor cortex prior to movement occured about 7/10 of a second before motion Haggard and Eimer reasoned that if readiness potential was cause of movement then it should show covariation in time with awareness asked participants to move right or left mand and to report when they were aware of intention to move looked at occasions where report of awareness was late (closer in time to actual movement) to see if readiness potential was also late and found that it was not also looked at lateralized readiness potential (measures activity specific to side where movement occurs) and found that it did covary with report of awareness when awareness was late/early so was lateralized readiness potential lateralized readiness potential may reflect brain acitvity that leads to awareness about action but is specific to one side of cody that moves, which presumably means that it must follow more general decision to make any movement; may be only part of sequence of brain activity leading up to conscious awareness Haggard, Clark, and Kalogeras looked at awareness of voluntary and involuntary movement induced muscle twitches (moved hand) by magnetic impulses delivered through surface of scalp watched clock hand spin around dial and reported where hand was when they felt intention to move or involutnary movement produced by simulation some trials were operant trials tone came of a second after movement and person was asked to report time of tone on operant trials reported times of voluntary movement were late and reported times of following tone were early: opposite of involuntary trials where reported time of movement was ealry and reported time of tone was late people's subjective experience of sequence was that, on voluntary tirals, movement and tone were close together and on involuntary trials perception was that they were further apart brain must bind together experience of voluntary movement with its external consequences binding perhaps helps us recognize those external events that are consequences of our behaviours Consciousness and Moral Reasoning Anderson reported case of 2 individuals who suffered brain damage to prefrontal area of brain before they were 2 years old had normal intellectual functioning but no moral or social reasoning inability to recall social and moral knowledge history of poor social and moral adjustment Selective Attention not conscious of all stimuli detected by our sense organs selective attention process that controls our awareness of, and readiness to respond to, particular categories of stimuli or stimuli in a particular location sensory memory receives moreinformation than it can transfer into short-term memory Sperling found that although people couldn't remember all letters he flashed, they could direct their attention to any of 3 lines and identify them with perfect accuracy process of selective attention determines which events we become conscious of attention may be controlled automatically (intense stimuli), instructions, or by demands of particular task we are performing attention to visual events in particular tends to act like spotlight that highlights events within some spatially contained area our attentional mechanisms serve to enhance our responsivness to certain stimuli and to tune out irrelevant information determines what is stored in short term memory
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