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Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Introduction

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McGill University
PSYC 211
Yogita Chudasama

Intro: animism (spirits make things move) to explain human behavior. Believe there’s something intangible that animates us b/c we’re aware of existence. Role of mind? Control/part of nervous system? Physical/hiding spirit? Mind-body question. Dualism: mind/body separate, body=ordinary matter, mind not. Monism: everything is matter/energy, mind is produced by nervous system. Once we understand workings of human body, esp nervous system, problem will be solved, we’ll be able to explain how we perceive/think/remember/act/self-awareness. Lab only finds manifestations of physical world: matter and energy. Understanding Human Consciousness: Physiological Approach: Consciousness: humans aware of thoughts/ perceptions/memories/feelings. Can be altered by changes in structure/chemistry of brain, so it is physiological function like behavior. Consciousness related to communication, since ability to send/receive messages with others enables us to send/receive our own message, think and be aware of our existence.  Blind sight: ability of person who cannot see objects in blind field to accurately reach while remaining unconscious of perceiving; damage to “mammalian” (visual cortex of brain, nerve fibers bring info from brain to eyes, ability to perceive world, vs. “primitive,” controls eye movements, brings attention to sudden movements) visual system. Shows behavior can be guided by sensory info of which we’re not aware, perceptions don’t need to enter consciousness to affect behavior. Visual info can control behavior w/o producing conscious sensation; consciousness not general property of all brain. Relate to communication, b/c primitive system evolved before consciousness, does not have connection, so we are not conscious of visual info it detects, but is connected to brain parts that control hand movements. Mammalian visual system has direct connections w/ parts of brain responsible for consciousness.  Split brains: disconnecting parts of brain involved w/ perception from parts involved w/ verbal behavior also disconnects from consciousness, suggests that parts of brain involved in verbal are responsible for consciousness. Epilepsy: nerve cells in one side overactive, transmitted to other by corpus callosum: large bundle of nerve fibers, connect corresponding parts of one side of brain w/ other. Split-brain operation: cutting corpus callosum, reduce frequency of seizures caused by both sides stimulating. Cerebral hemispheres: symmetrical halves of brain, largest part, receive sensory info from opposite side of body (except smell), control movement of opp sides. Corpus callosum allows info-sharing, each side knows what other is perceiving/doing. After operation, hemispheres operate independently; sensory mechanisms/memories/motor systems can’t exchange info. L controls speech, R verbal instructions but can’t speak. Conclusion: we become conscious of something only if info reaches parts of brain responsible for verbal communication (L). If info does get there, then does not reach consciousness.  Unilateral neglect: failure to notice things on L, caused by damage to R parietal lobe cortex –body and position + auditory/visual info, putting together info about location of body w/ locations of objects. People can answer if objects identical even if they said they were unaware of L stimulus. To perceive L/R ½ of object, must perceive entire object first. No R neglect. Rubber hand illusion: importance of parietal lobe in feeling body ownership. Increased activity in parietal, then premotor cortex (plan movements) when subjects felt rubber hand as own. Not activated if stroking not in sync. When parietal cortex detected congruent strokes, info transmitted to premotor cortex, gave rise to feeling ownership. Interim Summary: modern science = monistic position, supported by studies of functions of nervous system Nature of Physiological Psyc: ultimate function of brain=behavior, supported by thinking. Perception informs us of what is happening  behaviors adaptive, useful. Ability to think evolved b/c lets us to perform complex behavioraccomplish goals. Ability to learn/remember evolved b/c it let ancestors profit from experience.  Goal of research: scientific explanation in 2 forms: generalization (general conclusion based on many observations of similar phenomena), reduction: phenomenon described in terms of elementary process that underlie it. Must understand psyc why behavior occurs before we understand physio, b/c identical behaviors may occur for different reasons, be initiated by different physio mechanismstell us about psyc processes, esp. for complex phenomena; nature of impairments shows us how they’re organized. E.g., damage to specific partspecific impairments, nature of which suggests how abilities organized.  Bio roots of physio psyc: heart seat of thoughts/emotions, Hippocrates said brain. Aristotle: brain cooled passions of heart, Galen disagreed. o Descartes (modern phil): world set in motion by god, ran course w/o divine interference. Human body = machine w/ reflex: auto, stereotyped movement as result of stimulus. Dualist, each person possessed mind not subject to laws of unive
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