PSYA01H3 Chapter Notes -Visual Agnosia, Circadian Rhythm, Medium Frequency
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PSY – Chap 9 Notes: Consciousness
Consciousness as a Social Phenomenon
•Historically, there have been 3 positions on the nature of consciousness
oConsciousness is not a natural phenomenon, is not subject to the laws of
science/nature. It is supernatural.
oConsciousness is a natural phenomenon but we cannot understand it.
oPeople are indeed conscious, and this is produced by the activity of the human
brain, and we are able to study and understand consciousness.
•To discover the functions of consciousness, we must not confuse it with complex mental
processes such as Perceiving, Remembering, or Thinking. Consciousness is the
Awareness of these processes, not the processes themselves (it exists In Addition to these
•Consciousness is not a general property of all parts of the brain
•Blindsight: the ability to interact with objects (reach for them) while remaining
consciously unaware of them. Caused by damage to the visual cortex.
•Our ability to communicate provides us with self-awareness. Self-awareness is built on
inner-speech, which allows us to describe our behaviours and compare them to others.
oThus, consciousness is a primarily Social phenomenon.
•How does the ability to communicate symbolically give rise to consciousness?
oWe can express our needs, thoughts, perceptions, memories, intentions, and
feelings to other people
•William James proposed a contrasting idea: our emotional awareness comes after a
reaction. Ex. we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we
•Readiness potential: the electrical brain activity of the motor cortex prior to the
movement. It precedes a person’s awareness of the intention to act.
•Lateralized readiness potential: measures activity specific to the side where the
•Our brain must “bind together” the experience of voluntary movement with its external
consequences. Perhaps this binding process helps us recognize the external events that
are consequences of our behaviour
•Selective attention: determines which events we become consciousness of (particular
stimuli or stimuli in a particular location). Our “attention mechanisms” serve to enhance
our responsiveness to certain stimuli and tune out irrelevant information
•Dichotic listening: task that requires a person to listen to 1 of 2 different messages being
presented simultaneously (thru headphones)
•Shadowing: the act of continuously repeating verbal material as soon as it is heard
oResults from the experiment suggest that a channel of sensory input (one ear) can
simply be turned off. However, we are able to notice and remember some
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