We all drift into and out of different states of consciousness.
(states of consciousness: a pattern of subjective experiences, a way of experiencing internal
and external events)
-Altered state of consciousness: Variations from our normal waking state
-During sleep, we experience vivid imagery which often feel as real and emotional as say
a drug induced hallucination.
-We also experience divisions of awareness--> For example why don't you fall out of your
bed while you are sound asleep? You don't have the conscious knowledge of where the
bed ends but a part of you still knows and in a way regulates your movements so you don't
Some characteristics of consciousness
1. It is subjective and private: Others can not know what your reality is, nor can you
know what theirs is. As stated by Charles Dickens: ''Every human creature is constituted
to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.''
1. It is dynamic (always changing): We drift in and out of various states multiple
times throughout the day. Still though, consciousness is usually experienced as a constant
1. It is self-reflective and central to our sense of self: Our minds are aware of our
own consciousness. So, no matter what your thinking about, you can reflect on the fact
that YOU are the one conscious of this.
Consciousness is closely related with selective thinking. If the mind is a theatre of mental
activity, then consciousness is the thing under the spotlight at a particular moment.
Measuring States of Consciousness
It is rather hard to measure consciousness but psychologists rely on three main methods:
1. Self-Report: The person expresses their inner experiences. This does allow for a
more detailed, direct insight but is often unreliable/verifiable
1. Physiological: These establish correspondence between bodily states and mental
processes(Ex: EEG) These methods are objective but cannot tell us what the people
themselves are experiencing
1. Behavioural Measures: (View figure 6.2, page 217) These methods are objective
but cannot give us the person's state of mind
As for Freud
Freud suggested 3 levels of awareness: Conscious, Preconscious and Unconscious
Conscious: Thoughts, perception and other mental events of which we are currently
Preconscious: Mental events that are out of current mental awareness but can easily be
brought back (i.e childhood friend, somebody says their name and a pleasant thought is
Unconscious: Events that cannot be brought to consciousness under normal
circumstances( i.e. Unacceptable sexual desires, traumatic memories) because they
would bring anxiety, stress, guilt etc...
Research strongly supports Freud's broad suggestion that non-conscious processes affect
behaviour HOWEVER, many cognitive psychologists reject this. They alternately suggest that the
unconscious mind works with the conscious mind as a kind of ' sophisticated support
THE COGNITIVE UNCONSCIOUS: Controlled vs. Automatic processing: Tasks like
studying require controlled processing. You must focus and voluntarily make a conscious
effort. Automatic processing on the other hand kicks in when performing tasks that are
familiar or routine.(ex: using utensils, driving) You don't necessarily have to think about
what your doing, it comes naturally. Automatic processing also aids our divided attention;
the ability to do more than one thing at a time (ex: eat and watch TV) However this has
limits; it is much more difficult to do two things that require the same mental source.
(Remember its bad to drive and talk on the phone, even if your divided attention is
THE EMOTIONAL UNCONSCIOUS
It is suggested that emotional and motivational processes also operate in the unconscious.
(ex: Woman with amnesia who cant remember any new experiences shakes the hand of a
doctor, who pricks her with a pin(without her knowing this of course). When he later tries to
shake her hand again, she withdrew her hand. An unconscious memory of her past had
influenced her behaviour.)
THE MODULAR MIND
This theory suggests that our mind is made of modules, each with a specific function. If
each module is a person in the choir, we listen to the sound and melody of the choir as a
whole, not each individual person's voice. (i.e. All the modules work together)
Circadian rhythms: The daily biological cycles that regulate the rhythmic change in our
bodily functions every 24 hour cycle (ex: Body temp., certain hormone excretions...) ( We
have adapted to a 24 hour day-night cycle)
Keeping Time: Most circadian rhythms are regulated by the brain's suprachiasmatic
nuclei, or SCN(located in the hypothalamus). This has been proven to act as the brain's
clock, its neurons having cycles of activity and inactivity. They are active during the
daytime, reducing the pineal gland's secretion of melatonin, a hormone that has a relaxing
effect on the body. This raises body temperature and heightens alertness. The opposite
would, obviously, happen at night, relaxing the body and inducing sleepiness. (Refer to
figure 6.5 p.221)
Your eyes also affect SCN cell activity. They have a neural connection to the SCN and the
light of day increases their activity. If it were always dark, and no clocks were present,
your body would drift into a longer ''natural'' cycle of 24.2 to 24.8 hours.(free running
circadian rhythm)(examples are People who experience a free running circadian rhythm
tend to go to bed and wake up later each night. Trying to force your body into a 24 hour
cycle(for example blind children trying to sleep on a fixed schedule) could bring on
insomnia and other sleep diseases. It is also circadian rhythms that influence your being a morning vs. Night person. Morning
people' blood pressure, body temp and alertness peak earlier in the day while night
people's peaks later on. (night people= younger, morning people= older, usually :) )
ENVIRONMENTAL DISRUPTIONS OF CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS
Ex: Seasonal affective disorder: Tendency to become more psychologically depressed
during winter months when there is less daylight. As the sunrise occurs later in winter, so
does the onset time of their circadian clocks. People who must wake before the sunrise
will usually be in sleepiness mode long after the alarm has rung.
Ex: Jetlag: You lose hours in a day
Ex: Night shift work when the circadian clock is completely flipped around. These people
often get less sleep than most. Many people cannot adjust to this and become fatigued
Our circadian rhythms promote sleepiness in the early morning hours. Many
accidents(traffic, workplace etc.) take place between 12am and 6 am.
Small things can also affect our circadian rhythms. Daylight savings time, when we lose an
hour of sleep, has actually been shown to increase the number of accidental deaths for a
short period of time after.
SLEEP AND DREAMING
Every approximately 90 minutes during sleep we go through a cycle.
Stages of sleep: Stage 1: light sleep, easily awakened, only lasts a few minutes, body
jerks are common Stage 2: experience 1-2 second bursts of rapid brain wave activity,
muscles more relaxed, breathing/heart rate slow, harder to awaken. Stage 3: Experience
long slow delta waves (refer to figure 6.11) Stage 4: This is the time when delta waves
dominate the EEG patterns. (Stages 3+4 = 7 slow-wave sleep; body relaxed, brain activity
decreased, hard to awaken) After reaching stage 4 you go back through 3 and two to
complete a full 90 minute cycle (1-2-3-4-3-2)
REM Sleep: (Rapid eye movement sleep) Physiological and brain wave activity resemble
that of wakefulness, breathing becomes more rapid, heart rate increases, if awakened
during this period, dreams are usually remembered. Your voluntary muscles are almost
completely immobilized, almost as if paralyzed. Unlike non-REM dreams, REM dreams
are very vivid, story-like and seem as if they are real. They are often bizarre. The longer
you sleep, the longer periods of REM sleep will become.
-Sleep is not only a affected by physiological functions but also by environment. (ex: ppl
sleep on average 15-60 minutes longer in fall/winter, noise while asleep can increase
arousal and heart rate, reducing the time of deep slow-wave sleep....)
-As we age, three important changes occur in sleep patterns: 1) We sleep less 2) During
infancy and early childhood REM sleep decreases dramatically but stays pretty much
stable from there on out. 3) Time spent in stages 3 and 4 decline as we age (Please look
at figure 6.13!)
-Sleep deprivation affects all aspects of our lives.(HUGE effect on our mood) It was shown
that an 'average' sleep deprived person only performs as well as the bottom 9% of non
sleep deprived people. People may think they have done well on a task and get the feeling
they have been successful and tried harder when they did not really do so. -Why do we sleep? According to the restoration model it is to allow our run down bodies
to recover from physical and mental fatigue. Some researchers believe that a cellular
waste product called adenosine puts us to sleep in a way. When cells use energy,
adenosine is produced and in turn influences the brain systems to decrease alertness and
promote sleep. Evolutionary/circadian sleep models: suggests that sleep's purpose is
to increase a specie's chance for survival. Our ancestors had little to gain by being active
at night. All of their tasks were completed during the day when night time predators were
absent. Each specie adapted a circadian rhythm based on whether it was prey or predator.
Overall, animals develop a sleeping pattern that gives them the best chance of survival.
-Sleep Disorders: About 1/2 to 2/3 of people in north American adults feel they have
some type of sleep problem. Here are a few common ones:
i. Insomnia: Frequent and persisting trouble either falling asleep, staying asleep or
experiencing restful sleep. (approx. 10-40% of the pop.) Some causes include; genetic
disposition, medical conditions, anxiety or depression, drug use, stress/worry, circadian
i. Narcolepsy: The inability to stay awake. Involves daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable
sleep attacks lasting from 1 minute to an hour.(in REM sleep right away)
i. REM Sleep behaviour disorder(RBD): A disorder in which the usual muscle 'paralysis',
constant with REM sleep, is not experienced. Often, the person moves as if they are
acting out their dreams. These people often hurt themselves or sleeping partners. Causes
i. Sleepwalking: This happens to many people, especially children. The person walks
around seemingly conscious of their surroundings but unresponsive.
i. Nightmares and night terrors: Nightmares are familiar to us all. They happen during
REM sleep and in the hours before we wake. Night terrors are more intense. They involve
the person, usually children, suddenly sitting up with a scream. They often run away as if
trying to escape whatever they may be dreaming of. The morning often brings no
recollection of what happened during the night.
-When do we dream? We dream most during REM sleep when brain activity is higher.
However, dreaming is more common during the last few hours of both REM and non-REM
sleep. (Dreaming has also been reported within a mere 45 seconds after falling asleep.)
-What do we dream about? We most commonly dream about familiar things, with people
who we know involved. Some dreams are bizarre yes, but most often, dreams are quite
normal. Most dream(about 80%) actually involve negative content. (ex: aggressive acts,
some type of misfortune...) Our cultural background, life experiences and current concerns