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Chapter 9

Chapter 9 Notes

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Consciousness as a Social Phenomenon
first position on consciousness is that it is not a natural phenomenon and that it is
supernatural and miraculous not to be understood by human mind
second position is tha consciousness is natural phenomenon but also that we cannot
understand it for various reasons exists because of nature of human brain
our brains cannot grasp concept
do not have methods to study it yet
poorly defined
third position is that consciousness is produced by activity of brain and that we should be
optimistic about our ability to understand it (Hebb)
The Adaptive Significance of Consciousness
consciousness is awareness of processes in brain, not processes themselves
consciousness does not exist humans have ability to be conscious
most likley explanation for consciousness lies in its relation to deliberate, symbollic
communicaion our ability to communicate (words, signs, other symbollic meaning)
provides us with self-awareness --> social phenomenon (like communication)
Consciousness and the Ability to Communicate
through communicating symbolically we can express our needs, thoughts, perceptions,
memories, intentions, and feelings to other people
require 2 general capacities:
must be able to translate private events (needs, thoughts, etc) into symbolic expressions
brain mechanisms we use to communicate with others must receive input from
systems of brain involved in perceiving, thinking , remembering, etc
our symbols (words) must have effect on other person listening
once words are decoded in listener's brain they must affect listener's own thoughts,
perceptions, memories and behaviour
having both of these capabilities allows us to communicate with ourselves
thinking in words involves subvocal ariculation brain mechanisms that permit us to
understand words and produce speech are same ones we use to think in words
ability to communicate with ourselves symbolically gives rise to consciousness conscious of
private events we can talk about to others or ourselves: our needs, perceptions, intentions,
memories, and feelings
people who are deaf sometimes think with their hands
people mouth words to themselves
experiment by Cheesman and Merikle presented people with word (primer) that was
either congruent or incongruent with coloour of subsequent stimulus (target) and people
were asked to name target; between primer and target on some trials there was random
jumble of visual lines
found that incongruent primers produced Stroop-like interference even when jumble

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interfered with ability to consciously identify word
presented same experiment with many more congruent than incongruent primes so that
by using primer people could predict what colour was about to come
when primer was consciously perceivable people used it to predict target but when it was
not consciously perceived people failed to use it
consclusions: we become able to describe and thereby use psychological events tha are
private to ourselves
some animals are conscious dogs can learn to communicate with owner by communicating
underlying brain mechanisms, such as those of explicit memory system may be present in
species closely related to us behaviour of primates in mirror suggest they have concept of
computer could learn to communicate symbolically with itself and us
Evaluating Scientific Issues: Does Conscious Thought Control Behaviour
previously psychologists would not study consciousness because it was not observable
behaviour Descartes thought human actions were controlled by non-material mind
(dualism); William James thought emotional awareness came after reaction
recent evidence from cognitive psychology and neuropsychology provides way of thinking
about issue of conscious control of behaviour some evidence uses phenomenon of visual
2 crayons horizontal looks shorter (“top hat illusion - because it is often demonstrated
using judgments about crown vs brim of hat)
Ganel and Goodale compared perceptual judgments of object shape with ability to
pick up object and showed people wooden block on table and asked them whether block
was wider or narrow and repeated with different blocks
easy to judge width if blocks are all same length but if length was different then task
was difficult
grasping actions was not affected by variation in length
perceptual awareness of objects may be based on different visual system than one we use for
Ebbinghau illusion circle surrounded by big circles looks smaller than circle surrounded by
small circles but if you were to reach for them your behaviour would be unaffected by
relative size
introspective experiences would tell us that they were diferent in size but behaviour
would reflect otherwise
thought and action go together but is correlation could be third action of brain that causes
action and thought
Libet asked people to make hand motion while watching rapidly moving clock hand and
were to report where clock hand was at time they became aware of an intention to move
reports indicated that they experienced awareness of intention 3/10 of a second before
also measured readiness potential - electrical brain activity of motor cortex prior to

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occured about 7/10 of a second before motion
Haggard and Eimer reasoned that if readiness potential was cause of movement then it
should show covariation in time with awareness
asked participants to move right or left mand and to report when they were aware of
intention to move
looked at occasions where report of awareness was late (closer in time to actual
movement) to see if readiness potential was also late and found that it was not
also looked at lateralized readiness potential (measures activity specific to side where
movement occurs) and found that it did covary with report of awareness
when awareness was late/early so was lateralized readiness potential
lateralized readiness potential may reflect brain acitvity that leads to awareness about
action but is specific to one side of cody that moves, which presumably means that it must
follow more general decision to make any movement; may be only part of sequence of brain
activity leading up to conscious awareness
Haggard, Clark, and Kalogeras looked at awareness of voluntary and involuntary
induced muscle twitches (moved hand) by magnetic impulses delivered through surface
of scalp
watched clock hand spin around dial and reported where hand was when they felt
intention to move or involutnary movement produced by simulation
some trials were operant trials tone came ¼ of a second after movement and person
was asked to report time of tone
on operant trials reported times of voluntary movement were late and reported times of
following tone were early: opposite of involuntary trials where reported time of
movement was ealry and reported time of tone was late
people's subjective experience of sequence was that, on voluntary tirals, movement and
tone were close together and on involuntary trials perception was that they were further
brain must bind together experience of voluntary movement with its external
binding perhaps helps us recognize those external events that are consequences of our
Consciousness and Moral Reasoning
Anderson reported case of 2 individuals who suffered brain damage to prefrontal area of
brain before they were 2 years old
had normal intellectual functioning but no moral or social reasoning
inability to recall social and moral knowledge
history of poor social and moral adjustment
Selective Attention
not conscious of all stimuli detected by our sense organs
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