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Chapter 9

PSYA01 FINAL EXAM NOTES Chapter 9.docx

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Steve Joordens

CHAPTER 9: CONSCIOUSNESS CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PHENOMENON Can we Understand Consciousness Historically people taken three positions on consciousness: not natural phenomenon (miracoulous, not understandable by human mind), natural phenomenon we can’t understand (exists because of nature of brain, but how is unknown), and thirdly people are conscious and its produced by brain activity, and it can be explained Hebb believed the third one The Adaptive Significance of Consciousness Consciousness is awareness of perceiving, remembering, thinking, not those itself Consciousness does not exist, humans exist with the ability to be conscious Consciousness is private experience, cannot be shared directly, we experience our own consciousness and infer others being conscious because they are like us and because they tell us they are conscious Consciousness is not general property of all parts of brain (not conscious of everything about ourselves or equally of one thing all the time) Blindsight: ability to interact behaviourally with objects while remaining consciously unaware of them Caused by damage to visual cortex or pathway leading to or from that area Able to reach for a cane and grab it although they are unable to be conscious of it being there Consciousness is primarily social phenomenon, awareness through communication, and selfawareness through inner speech Consciousness and the ability to Communicate Able to translate private events into symbolic expressions; brain mechanisms for communicating receive input from systems of brain involved in perceiving, thinking, remembering and so on Our words have effect on other peoples thoughts, perceptions, memories and behavior Ability to communicate with ourselves symbolically gives rise to consciousness Cheesman and Merikle presented people with word (prime) that was congruent or incongruent with a patch of color (target) and asked to name the color of the patch, which is difficult when prime is incongruent. If add mask immediately in front of prime, participants unconscious of the meaning of the prime, but it still affected the naming of the color if incongruent Tried where pretty much all congruent, but with mask, unable to predict which color would come up and name it Consciousness has this property: we become able to describe, and use, the psychological events that are private to ourselves Consciousness and the Control of Behaviour James suggests emotional awareness comes after a reaction, scared because we tremble, etc. Vertical crayon seems longer than horizontal but it does not affect our action to go grab them in terms from end to end Thus perceptual awareness of objects may be based on different visual system than the one we use for actions Ebbinghaus illusion – same size coin surrounded by smaller or larger circles Introspective experiences tell us coin sizes are different, behaviour reflects otherwise Libet – timed a hand motion while participants watch rapidly moving clock hand. They were to report where clock hand was at time they became aware of intention to move. Indicated electrical brain activity of motor cortex activated 7/10 of a second before the motion, and the intent to move was aware 3/10 of a second before motion, and then motion Obhi experiment: pressing on a keyboard un/intentionally, awareness of movement, even when intentional was based on sensory feedback from finger SELECTIVE ATTENTION Selective attention: process that controls our awareness of, and readiness to respond to, particular categories of stimuli or stimuli in a particular location Process determines what information we become conscious of Can be controlled automatically (loud sound catches attention), instructions, demands of particular task we are performing To enhance responsiveness to certain stimuli and ignore irrelevant info Broadbent – we don’t just process all info being gathered because brain mechanisms responsible for conscious processing are limited in capacity. Auditory Information Cherry devised dichotic listening: a task that requires a person to listen to one of two different messages being presented simultaneously, one to each ear, through headphones Asked to shadow (act of continuously repeating verbal material as soon as it is heard) one message, which ensures focus on one message People did not notice what the other ear message was or even if it switched to foreign The unattended sensory channel is not just turned off, people would still hear their name in an unattended ear or if there are sexually explicit words people tend to notice immediately This means even unattended info goes through verbal analysis, if filtered out, it is after they are analyzed as words McKay – found that words spoken to unattended ear affected interpretation. (they threw stones toward the bank yesterday, hearing river or money, then asked if they heard side of river or savings and loan association) of course they heard neither but their answer was determined on the unattended ear There is temporary storage of unattended info, ex. When busy and asked question you ask what but answer before it is repeated Treisman – people can shadow message even if it switches ears This is useful in crowded places trying to focus on one conversation Visual Information Studies show that we can successfully attend to location nature and meaningfulness of information Location of Information Snyder, Davidson, Posner, people watch screen to detect letter, arrows either point where letter will be, opposite, or a neutral plus. Faster to response when notified correctly than incorrectly If stimulus occurs where expected, perceive it quickly, opposite is opposite Nature of Information Two events can happen in close proximity but we can watch one and ignore the other Neisser and Becklen – showed participants overlapping images, one of bloody knuckles, one of basketball , participants could remember what happened in one scene but not attend to both The Meaningfulness of the Information Simon – thought visual field rich in info, ability to represent it in memory is limited Change blindness: failure to detect a change when vision is interrupted by a saccade or artificially produced obstruction When we fail to attend to feature we don’t encode it and can’t recognize it when it changes Pearson and Schaefer – showed picture and picture with changes (picture involved driving) features more meaningful to the overall scene are attended to Cultural background also affects attention in change blindness; Japanese more sensitive than Americans to changes in part of a picture that describes context Simon and Levin – showed people who give directions to someone won’t notice change about that person in brief obstruction because they are attending to directions not the person Inattentional blindness: failure to perceive an event when attention is diverted elsewhere Simon and Chabris - Example of gorilla in basketball game, people didn’t notice though in centre of action. People more likely to see if it is woman with umbrella for pure possibility, gorilla seems really unlikely Similarity of unexpected event with things we attend to that determine inattentional blindness Brain Mechanisms of Selective Attention Some components of brain sensory system are temporarily sensitized which enhances ability to detect particular categories of stimuli, (i.e. watching shapes, focused on color, part of visual cortex devoted to the analysis of it will be increased in activity) Corbetta – showed screen with 30 color rectangles that could change in shape, colour or speed, participants asked to say if change detected. Some trials attention only to be paid to one attribute. PET scanner on brains showed different areas for different attributes being activated CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE BRAIN Brain damage can alter one’s consciousness, ex of anterograde amnesia, cannot form verbal memories but can learn some tasks, does not prevent all kinds of learning but prevents conscious awareness of what has been learned If human consciousness related to speed, probably related to brain mechanisms that controls comprehension and production of speech This suggests for us to be aware of a piece of info, it must be transmitted to neural circuits in brain responsible for neural behaviour, several cases of brain damage supports this Isolation Aphasia: A Case of Global Unawareness Geschwind, Quadfasel, Segarra – woman suffered brain damage from carbon monoxide inhalation, spared primary auditory cortex (speech area of brain) and connections between these areas BUT damaged destroyed large parts of visual association and isolated speech mechanisms from other parts of brain Isolation aphasia: language disturbance that includes inability to comprehend speed or produce meaningful speech without affect ability to repeat speech and learn new sequences of words; caused by brain damage that isolates brain’s speech mechanisms from other parts of brain Woman in hospital for 9 years gave no evidence of recognizing objects or people in environment, eyes could still move around, not spontaneously say anything, answer, or give any signs that she understood what people said to her, by all criteria, not conscious of anything going on BUT she could repeat what was said to her and if they started a poem she knew, she would finish it She could also learn new songs and poems and would sing along with radio Suggests consciousness is not just brain’s speech mechanisms; it is activity prompted by info received from other parts of brain concerning memories or events presently occurring Visual Agnosia: Lack of Awareness of Visual Perceptions Visual agnosia: inability of a person who is not blind to recognize the identity of an object visually cased by damage to visual association cortex Though cannot visually identify object, the patient’s hand
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