Psychology: Module 7-10 Notes
Consciousness: awareness of ourselves and our environment.
The Biology of Consciousness
Cognitive neuroscience: study of brain activity linked to mental processes.
23 year old unconscious women had brain activity in the areas linked to arm and leg movement
when asked to imagine playing tennis.
Conscious experience produced by synchronized activity across the brain.
If stimulus activates enough brain wide coordinated neural activity, a threshold for
consciousness is crossed. Weaker stimulus only engages one part of the brain for a brief
moment, not even to cross the threshold for conscious activity.
Dual Processing: The Two Track Mind
Dual processing: information is simultaneously processed on both a conscious and unconscious
When we see a bird flying, we are consciously aware of our cognitive processing, that we have
recognized a humming bird. We are not, however, consciously aware of the cognitive sub
processing that occurred, which allowed us to determine its color, depth, size all at the same
Blindsight: can respond to a visual stimulus without consciously experiencing it. For example,
being unable to determine the width of an object, yet being able to correctly hold it in the right
Brain scans will reveal normal brain activity related to the physical aspect of the task, such as
grabbing, but not in the part of the brain related to consciously processing the activity.
Vision is a dual processing system: visual perception track enables us to think about the world,
and the visual action track enables us to guide our moment to moment movements.
Hollow Face Illusions demonstrates how the two tracks conflict.
We become consciously aware of our decisions later than we actually make them.
Everyday life we mostly function on autopilot.
Selective attention: Focusing of conscious awareness of a particular stimulus.
Cocktail party effect: If someone else says your name, you become fixated on their voice among
Selective Attention and Accidents
Blink less when focused on a specific thing.
Inattentional blindness: failing to see visual objects when our attention is elsewhere.
Change blindness: failing to see changes in the environment.
Another form of inattention is choice blindness, and powerful stimuli cause “popout.”
Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Circadian Rhythm Circadian Rhythm: internal biological clock synchronized with the 24 hour clock of night and day.
Body temperature rises in the morning, and peaks during the day, dips in early afternoon, and
drops at evening.
Thinking and memory best during daytime peak.
Might feel irritated middle of the night, but feel better once morning approaches.
Most 20 year olds are evening energized owls, as performance increases across the day.
Older adults are morning loving larks, performance decreases across the day.
Age 20 we shift from owls to larks.
Women become morning orientated due to kids and menopause.
Morning types do better in school, take more initiative.
REM sleep: rapid eye movement sleep; often vivid dream occur during this stage, also called
paradoxical sleep because muscles are relaxed but other body systems are active.
Alpha waves: slow brain waves of a relaxed, but awake state.
Sleep: periodic, natural, easily reversible loss of consciousness
NREM 1: characterizes initial transition to “sleep;” slow breathing and irregular brain waves.
Also experience hallucinations: sensory experiences without sensory stimulus. Sensations of
falling or floating weightlessly also occur. (30 mins)
NREM-2: have sleep spindles: bursts of rapid, rhythmic brainwave activity. At this point you are
clearly asleep but still could be awakened. ( 20 mins)
NREM-3: brain emits delta waves: large slow brain waves associated with deep sleep. Here it is
hard to wake you. (30 mins)
Lasts about 10 minutes
Brain waves are irregular like NREM1, they are rapid and sawtoothed.
Heart rate rises, breathing becomes rapid and irregular, and eyes move rapidly.
Eye movements indicate beginning of a dream.
Genitals become aroused during REM sleep.
Morning erections come from night’s last REM period.
Brainstem blocks messages to motor cortex.
Body essentially paralyzed and hard to awaken.
As night progresses, NREM-3 decreases, and NREM-2 and REM increase.
What affects our sleep patterns?
Sleep patterns genetically and culturally influenced.
Morning light activates retinal proteins, which send triggering signals to the brain’s
suprachiasmatic nucleus. SCN tell pineal gland to reduce levels of sleep inducing hormone
melatonin in the morning, and increase levels at night.
Sleep protects: Hunters and gatherers were better off sleeping than trying to move around at
Sleep helps us recuperate: helps restore and repair brain tissue.
Sleeps restores memories of the day’s experiences: self -explanatory
Sleep feeds creative thinking: aids thinking and learning
Sleep supports growth: pituitary gland secretes GH during sleep.
Sleep Deprivation and Sleep Disorders Effects of Sleep Loss
Depression, weakened immune system, weight gain
Major Sleep Disorders
Insomnia: inability to fall asleep
Insomnia worsened by worrying about it.
Narcolepsy: uncontrollable sleep attacks in which the person enters REM