Chapter 6: State of Consciousness
State of consciousness –meant by psychologist’s variations from our normal waking state
Consciousness: our moment – to – moment awareness of ourselves and our environment
• Subjective and Private: other’s cannot know what reality is for you, nor experience it
• Dynamic: drifting in and out of various states
• Self-reflective and central to our sense of self: the mind is aware of its own conscious –
“you” are the one who is conscious of it
• Intimately connected with the process of selective attention: focus on one stimuli and
exclusions of others (like casting a spotlight)
Measuring states of consciousness:
• Self-report: people describe inner experiences
• Physiological measures: establish the correspondence between bodily states and mental
processes. EX: EGG recording of brain activity help identify different stages of sleep
throughout the night.
• Behavioural measures: performance on special tasks.
Levels of Consciousness: According to Freud
• Conscious: contains thoughts, perceptions, and other mental evens that we are aware
• Preconscious: mental events outside current awareness, not easily recalled
• Unconscious: cannot be brought through conscious awareness – kept out of conscious
Controlled (effortful) processing: the voluntary use of attention
Automatic processing: can be performed with little or no conscious effort – used when we
carry out routine, or well learned actions
- Ellen Langer: downside to automatic processing - reduces our chances of finding new
ways to solve problems. Still, it offers speed and economy of effort, and in everyday life
most actions may be processed this way.
Divided attention: ability to perform more than one activity at the same time (talking and
- Downfall to dived attention – reduced attention for each task (talking on the phone while
Circadian rhythms: daily biological cycles (every 24 hrs our body temp, certain hormonal
secretions and other bodily functions undergo a rhythmic change that affects our mental
- Affect our tendencies to be a “night person” or “morning person”
- Gradual and sudden environmental changes can disrupt our circadian rhythm
- Suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in the hypothalamus regulates most circadian rhythm
Brain and Environment
- SCN neurons have a genetically programmed cycle of activity and inactivity, functioning
like a “biological clock” - Melatonin, a hormone that has a relaxing effect on the body.
- SCN neurons become active during daytime and reduce the pineal gland’s secretion of
melatonin, raising your body temperature and heightening alertness;
- At night, SCN neurons are inactive, allowing melatonin levels to increase and promoting
relaxation and sleepiness.
- Free-running circadian rhythm, a longer natural cycle of about 24.2 to 24.8 hours when
in complete darkness.
- Blind children and adults whose eyes are completely insensitive to light also may
experience FRCR. When they try to force their sleep-wake cycle into the 24-hour world
by going to bed at fixed times, blind people often experience insomnia, other sleep
problems and day time fatigue.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): psychological tendency to become psychologically
depressed during certain months of the year (usually in fall or winter with shorter day light)
- Jet lag disrupts rhythms – changing times
- Nightshift work – most problematic
Stages of sleep:
- Every 90 mins while sleeping, cycle through different stages
Beta waves: high frequency – low amplitude (awake and alert)
Alpha waves: brain waves slow (feeling relaxed and drowsy)
Stages of sleep:
1. light sleep – easily awakened
2. sleep spindles (2 sec. Bursts of rapid brain energy) = entered stage 2 – muscles are
more relaxed, breathing and heart rate slower – harder to awaken
3. marked by regular appearance of very slow delta waves
4. body is relaxed, activity in brain has decreased – hard to awaken
- After 4 you go back through stages 3 and 2 – therefore: 1-2-3-4-3-2
REM sleep (Rapid eye movements): after going back to stage 2 – bursts of muscular activity
causing eyeballs to move back and forth – heart rate quickens irregular brain wave activity etc.
- Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman identified REM sleep
- We dream through all stages of sleep... but during REM = more vivid, emotions, sensory
& more story like
How much do we sleep?
• New born: 16 hours – almost ½ is REM
• 15-24 yrs old: 8 ½ hours
• Elderly adults: just under 6 hours
Needed = 8 – 10 hrs a night
- Short-term total sleep deprivation: up to 45 hrs without sleep.
- Long-term total sleep deprivation: more than 45 hrs without sleep.
- Partial deprivation: being allowed to sleep no more than 5 hours/night for one or more
consecutive nights. - Result: mood suffered most, followed by cognitive and then physical performance.
- In general, it takes several nights to recover from extended total sleep deprivation, and
we do not make up all the sleep time that we have lost.
(According to restoration model)
• To function at our emotional, physical and mental best
• Recharges run down bodies
• Recover from physical or mental fatigue
• Enhance species survival rate – tested on rats – sleep deprivation = death
• Some researchers believe that adenosine reduces alertness and promote sleep.
Evolutionary/circadian sleep model emphasize that sleep’s main purpose is to increase a
species’ chances of survival in relation to its environmental demands.
- ½ of north American adults feel they have sleep problems
Insomnia: chronic difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep of experienced restful sleeps
- Most common sleep disorder
- Biological, psychological and environmentally caused
- Stimulus Control: non-drug related treatment – conditioning body to associate the stimuli
in sleep environment with sleep (bed – used only for sleeping)
- Pseudionsomniacs: complain of not getting sleep – but while being examined, sleep fine