Consciousness - the subjective awareness of internal and external events.
Last century psychology was referred to as the science which describes and explains
the phenomena of consciousness
Research techniques studied introspection, in which subjects reported on their own
Setting Priorities for Mental Functioning: Attention
Attention the internal processes people use to set and follow priorities for mental functioning.
For adaptive reasons, the brain uses attention to focus selectively on certain parts of the
environment while largely ignoring others.
We are consciously aware of only those things that receive some measure of attention.
Why is attention selective? any individuals mental resources are limited: Given the particular cognitive
skills that a person has developed, he or she will be limited in the number and kinds of cognitive tasks
that he or she can perform simultaneously.
If you tried to focus on and think about everything is the environment, you would suffer
interference from irrelevant input.
Experiments on Attention: Dichotic Listening
Dichotic listening a technique in which two different auditory messages are presented
simultaneously, one to each ear, usually the subjects task is to shadow, or repeat aloud, one
message while ignoring the other.
The shadowed message is the one that is remembered, the non shadowed message is
the one that the listener does not remember.
Cocktail party effect the ability to focus on one auditory message, such as a friends voice at a
noisy party, and largely ignore others, yet notice when your own name is spoken among the
auditory stimuli that you have been ignoring.
Treismans Ear switching experiment at one point in a dichotic listening experiment, the
to be shadowed message was abruptly switched to the to be ignored ear. Interestingly,
subjects often continued to repeat the meaningful sentence without even noticing that they
were now shadowing the message they were supposed to be ignoring.
the cocktail party effect and the findings of the ear switching experiments suggest that
the brain does not completely ignore stimuli that are not the focus of attention. Processing without Attention: Automaticity
automaticity - fast and almost effortless processing that requires little or no focused attention.
Automatic processes, once they develop, no longer seem to require much conscious
Many of the activities people take for granted walking, reading, and talking are
essentially automatic processes.
It is possible to measure how automaticity develops through what is called a divided
attention task. People are asked to perform two tasks at the same time, such as playing the
piano and memorizing a list of words. Automaticity is demonstrated when one task, the
automatic one, does not interfere with performance on the other task.
The relationship between automaticity and awareness tells us something important about
the function of consciousness. The better you are at performing a task the more
automatic the task has become the less likely you are to be aware of the processes
involved in performing the task.
Disorders of Attention
Attention is the gateway to consciousness: We only become conscious of things that receive
some measure of attention. It follows that if the brain systems that control attention are
damaged, a corresponding loss in conscious awareness will occur.
Visual neglect a complex attention disorder characterized by a tendency to ignore things that
appear on one side of the body usually the left side.
Damage to the right parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex
A related disorder is called visual form agnosia, these patients have a hard time
describing the shape, size, and orientation of visually presented objects.
It is proposed that there are two distinct, but interacting visual systems: one for the conscious
perception of objects and the other for acting on objects.
o According to this, visual agnosia, arise from damage to the former system.
Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder
a psychological condition marked by difficulties in concentrating and sustaining attention and by
high levels of fidgety physical activity; occurs most often in children. Also known as ADHD.
Can occur without hyperactivity, and is then known as ADD.
Might be caused by mild damage to or malfunctioning of the right hemisphere of the
Brain mechanisms involved in ADD are still largely unknown.
PET scans have indicated that various regions of the brain may be involved. It is unlikely that any single brain location is responsible for ADHD, since the disorder is
Treatment medication and training.
Learning coping strategies to help them perform well in school and in social settings.
Study skills, such as learning to write down important information, and offering rewards for
sitting still and not being disruptive in social interactions.
Medications such as Ritalin seem to help concentration and the often reduce hyperactivity and
Such drugs are known as stimulants generally serve to increase nervous system activity. In low
doses they appear to increase the ability to concentrate and focus attention in children.
The general consensus is that if subliminal messages have any effect at all it is a small and
It is sometimes claimed that subliminal messages lead to enhanced memory for the supraliminal
material in which they are embedded.
When words were embedded in pictures, and then pointed out. The experimental group did not
notice them anymore then the control group.
Winkielman, Berridge and Wilbarger subliminal presentations of photos of faces smiling
faces poured and drank more juice, then those shown angry faces.
It is important to remember that people who buy such tapes (and those who participate in
studies of memory or self esteem enhancement) are motivated to improve. Thus, we might
expect to see some improvement over the course of a study, even if the tapes themselves have
no effect at all. It is also possible that subliminal tapes act as a kind of placebo, leading to
improvement because the listener believes in their magical powers.
Backward speech: their results indicate that people cannot tell the difference between innocent
and sinister messages played backwards and, just as important, they showed that giving people
suggestions about what they would hear in backward speech often led people to report hearing
what was suggested.
Debner and Jacoby word flashing the having to complete fragmented words. When subjects
were aware of the word (when the word was flashed for a long enough time for subjects to see
it) they avoided using it. When it was flashed for a very short time, they used it. This is strong
evidence of an unconscious influence of the very briefly presented words.
Therefore, we probably can be influenced by stimuli of which we are unaware, but there is not
much evidence that such messages exist in advertisements and even if they do, their
influence is probably small and fleeting.