CHAPTER 5 – CONSCIOUSNESS
Consciousness – a person’s subjective experience of the world and mind
• Altered states of consciousness ▯intoxication, hypnosis, medication
CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS
What are the great mysteries of consciousness?
Psychologists have a tough time grasping the subjective perspectives of people they study
Phenomenology – how things seem to the conscious peon, in their understanding of mind and behaviour
Mysteries of Consciousness:
Problem of other minds – the fundamental difficulty we have in perceiving the consciousness of others
Mind/Body Problem – the issue of how the mind is related to the brain and the body
• René Descartes: human body is a machine made of matter but human mind or soul is a separate entity of a
o Proposed that the mind has its effect on the body through the pineal gland
Mental events are intimately tied to brain events, such that every thought, perception, or feeling is associated with a
particular pattern of activation or neurons in the brain. Studies suggest that the brain activities precede the activities of
the conscious mind
The Timing of Conscious Will: (a) In Benjamin Libet’s experiments, the participant was asked to move fingers at will
while simultaneously watching a dot move around the face of a clock to mark the moment at which the action was
consciously willed. Meanwhile, EEG sensors timed the onset of brain activation and EMG sensors timed the muscle
movement. (b) The experiment showed that brain activity (EEG) precedes the willed movement of the finger (EMG)
but that the reported time of consciously willing the finger to move follows the brain activity.
What comes first: brain activity or thinking?
• The brain begins to show electrical activity around half a second before voluntary action (535msec)
• Brain also started to show electrical activity before the person’s conscious decision to move
• Brain becomes active more than 300msec before participants report they are consciously trying to move
o Your brain is getting started before either the thinking or the doing, preparing the way for both
thought and action
The Nature of Consciousness
4 Basic Properties of Consciousness:
• Intentionality – the quality of being directed toward an object
• Unity – resistance to division
• Selectivity – the capacity to include some objects but not others. Consciousness filters out some
info, but can also work to tune in other info
o Cocktail party phenomenon – people tune in one message even while they filter out
• Transience – tendency to change
o The mind wanders incessantly from one “right now” to the next “right now” Levels of Consciousness
Minimal consciousness – a lowlevel kind of sensory awareness and responsiveness that occurs when the mind
inputs sensations and may output behaviour
• When someone pokes you in your sleep and you turn over ▯ you experience it but you may not
think at all about having had that experience
What is full consciousness?
Full consciousness – consciousness in which you know and are able to report your mental state
• Being aware of having a mental state while you are experiencing the mental state itself
o Involves not only thinking about things but also thinking about the fact you are thinking
Selfconsciousness – distinct level of consciousness in which the person’s attention is drawn to the self as an
• Focuses on the self to the elusion of almost everything else
o Ex. embarrassment
What part of the brain is active during daydreaming?
When people are not busy, they still show a widespread pattern of activation in many areas of the brain – now
known as the default network. This network becomes activated whenever people worked on a mental task that they
knew so well that they could daydream while doing it.
Mental control – the attempt to change conscious states of mind
• Ex. A troubled university student may be troubled by current issues (grades, exams, finals) and may
try to not think about it because it causes anxiety and uncertainty
Thought suppression – the conscious avoidance of a thought.
• Eliminates worry and allows the person to move on and think about something else
Rebound effect of thought suppression – the tendency of a thought to return to consciousness with greater
frequency following suppression
Ironic processes of mental control – ironic errors occur because the mental process that monitors errors can
itself produce them
• The ironic monitor is a process of the mind that works outside of consciousness, making us
sensitive to all the things that we do not want to think, feel, or do, so that we can notice and consciously
take steps to regain control if these things come back to mind.
• As this unconscious monitoring whirs along in the background, it unfortunately increases the
person’s sensitivity to the very thought that is unwanted
The Unconscious Mind
Dynamic unconscious – an active system encompassing a lifetime of hidden memories, the person’s deepest
instinct and desires, and the person’s inner struggle to control these forces
Repression – a mental process that removes unacceptable thoughts and memories from consciousness and keeps
them in the unconscious
What do Freudian slips tell us about the unconscious mind?
Freud looked for evidence of the unconscious mind in speech errors and lapses of consciousness, or what are
commonly called “Freudian Slips”. Freud believed that errors are not random and instead have some surplus
meaning that may appear to have been created by an intelligent unconscious mind, even though the person
consciously rejects them.
Cognitive Unconscious Cognitive unconscious – the mental processes that give rise to a person’s thoughts, choices, emotions, and
behaviour even though the person does not experience them
Subliminal perception – thought or behaviour is influenced by stimuli that a person cannot consciously report
• The cognitive unconscious is at work when subliminal perception and unconscious decision processes
influence thought or behaviour without the person’s awareness
Freud attributed great intelligence to the unconscious, believing it harbors complex motives and inner conflicts and
that it expresses these in an astonishing array of thoughts and emotions, as well as psychological disorders.
In some cases, the unconscious mind can make better decisions than the conscious mind.
SLEEP AND DREAMING
• As you begin to fall asleep, the busy, taskoriented thoughts of waking mind are replaced by wandering
thoughts and images. This presleep consciousness is called the hypnagogic state. On some rare nights you
may experience a hypnic jerk, a sudden quiver or sensation of dropping. Eventually, your presence of mind
goes away entirely. Time and experience stop, you are unconscious. Dreams come, and finally the
glimmerings of waking consciousness return in a foggy and imprecise form as you enter postsleep
consciousness (the hypnopompic state) and then awake.
Circadian rhythm – naturally occurring 24hour cycle
What are the stages in a typical night’s sleep?
The EEG recordings revealed a regular pattern of changes in electrical activity in the brain accompanying the
circadian cycle. During waking, these changes involve alternation between highfrequency activity (beta
waves) during alertness and lowfrequency activity (alpha waves) during relaxation. The largest changes in
EEG occur during sleep.
First Stage ▯the EEG moves to frequency patterns even lower than alpha waves (theta waves)
Second Stage ▯ These patterns are interrupted by short bursts of activity called sleep spindles and k
complexes, and the sleeper becomes somewhat more difficult to awaken
Third and Fourth Stage ▯slowwave sleep, EEG patterns show activity (delta waves)
Fifth Stage ▯ Rem
Sleep – a stage of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements and a high level of brain activity.
• During REM sleep, the pulse quickens, blood pressure rises, and signs of sexual arousal.
In first hour of the night, you
fall from waking to the 4 th
and deepest stage of sleep
(marked by delta waves).
These slow waves indicate a general
synchronization of neural
firing, as though the brain is
doing one thing at this time
rather than many. You return
to lighter sleep stages,
eventually reaching REM and
dreaming. Although REM sleep is
lighter than that of lower stages, it is deep
enough that you may be
difficult to awaken. You then
continue to cycle between REM and
slow wave sleep stages every 90 min or so
throughout the night. Periods of REM
last longer as the night goes on, and lighter sleeps stages predominate between these periods, with the deeper slowwave stages 3 and 4 disappearing
halfway through the night.
Sleep Needs and Deprivation
What is the relationship between sleep and learning?
It is as though memories normally deteriorate unless sleep occurs to help keep them in place. Studying all
night may help you cram for the exam, but it won’t make the material stick.
Studies of REM sleep deprivation indicate that this part of sleep is important psychologically, as memory
problems and excessive aggression are observed in both humans and rats after only a few days of being
awakened whenever REM activity starts. Deprivation from slowwave sleep (stage 3 and 4) has more
physical effects (fatigue, muscle and bone pain).
• Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
o What are some problems caused by sleeping pills? ▯ Most sleeping pills are
addictive. Even in shortterm use, sedatives can interfere with the normal sleep cycle.
Although they promote sleep, they reduce the proportion of time spent in REM and slow
wave sleep, robbing people of dreams and their deepest sleep stages. As a result, the
quality of sleep achieved with pills may not be as high as without.
• Sleep Apnea – a disorder in which the person stops breathing for brief periods while
o Involves an involuntary obstruction of breathing passage ▯ snoring followed by
apnea followed by awakenings resulting in sleep loss or insomnia
• Somnambulism – sleepwalking; a person arises and walks around while asleep. It is
safe to wake sleepwalkers or lead them back to bed.
• Narcolepsy – a disorder in which sudden sleep attacks occur in the middle of waking
o Involves the intrusion of a dreaming state of sleep (with REM) into waking and
is often accompanied by unrelenting excessive sleepiness and uncontrollable sleep attacks
lasting from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.
• Sleep Paralysis – the experience of waking up unable to move
• Night Terrors – the abrupt awakenings with panic and intense emotional arousal;
o Happen most often in NREM sleep early in the sleep cycle and do not usually
have dream content the sleeper can report
What distinguishes dream consciousness from the waking state? • We intensely feel emotion
• Dream thought is illogical
• Sensation is fully formed and meaningful
• Dreaming occurs with uncritical acceptance
• We have difficulty remembering the dream after it is over
Freud’s Approach ▯ proposed that dreams are confusing and obscure because the dynamic unconscious
creates them precisely to be confusing and obscure. Dreams represent wishes and some of these wishes are so
unacceptable, taboo, and anxiety producing that the mind can only express them in a disguised form. Freud
believed that many of the most unacceptable wishes are sexual, so he interpreted a dream of a train going into
a tunnel as a symbolic of sexual intercourse. According to Freud, the manifest content of a dream a –
dream’s apparent topic or superficial meaning, is a smoke screen for its latent content – a dream’s true
• For example, a dream about a tree burning down in the park across the street from where
a friend once lived (the manifest content) might represent a camouflaged wish for the death of the
friend (the latent content).
o In this case, wishing for the death of a friend is unacceptable, so it is disguised
as a tree on fire.