Psychology- The study of human behaviour
Consciousness as a Social Phenomenon
Can We Understand Consciousness?
One position is that consciousness is not a natural phenomenon but something supernatural and
The second position is that consciousness is a natural phenomenon, but also that for some
reasons we cannot understand it.
The third position is that people are indeed conscious, that consciousness is produced by the
activity of the brain, and that we should be optimistic in understanding it.
Hebb came up with the third idea but disagreed that consciousness was nothing but impulses.
There was a higher psychological level to it.
The Adaptive Significance of Consciousness
Consciousness is defined to be the awareness of a process, not the action of it.
Consciousness is not a general property of all parts of the brain.
The Blindsight phenomenon is the ability to reach for objects accurately while remaining
unaware of seeing them. This is caused by damage to the visual cortex.
Self-awareness is built on inner speech and how we communicate with others through symbols.
Consciousness and the Ability to Communicate
In order to communicate with others, we must be able to translate private events into symbolic
expressions. Also, through our symbols we must be able to affect the listener. We must make them
think and make what we said a part of their memory.
We can also communicate with ourselves privately when we think to ourselves. This
symbolically gives rise to consciousness.
Cheesman and Merikle conducted an experiment and found that incongruent primes produce a
stroop like effect when naming colours.
Conscious awareness is therefore the ability describe and use the physiological events that are
private to ourselves.
Most calls and warnings from other animals are automatic non conscious acts. However new
languages may be learned. Chimpanzees viewing themselves in mirrors suggests that they have a
sense of self-awareness.
Computers can even be seen as conscious!
Consciousness and the Control of Behaviour William James suggested that awareness comes after a reaction. We feel sorry because we cry.
Below is shown the Top Hat Illusion. The bottom and sides look different in leangth but are one
of the same:
Ganel and Goodale conducted an experiment and found that people cannot tell the difference in
width of blocks if the length is constantly changing. Therefore shape affects action.
If length was not changed however, people could tell the difference easily.
The Ebbinghaus Illusion is a trick that makes us think something is different in size due to the
relative size of objects around it. look below:
However our awareness differs from our action. If this were a quarter in the centre, we would not
be tricked whatsoever.
Libet and colleagues conducted an experiment in which people were asked to make a hand
motion when the hand of a clock moved.
It was found that the actual movement (readiness potential) occurred tenths of seconds before the
intent was made.
Haggard and Eimer conducted an experiment and found that the lateralized readiness potential
may reflect brain activity that leads to awareness about action since they covary.
however lateralized readiness only works for half the body, so there must be a more general
scheme of how things work.
Haggard, Clark, and Kalogeras found that in operant trials the reported time of the voluntary
movement were early and the tone was late.
A binding process must occur to bind voluntary movement with external consequences. Obhi found that sensory experience is very correlated to the amount of awareness we have. If
sensory experiences are dim, we tend to think they have been happening longer. If strong, we are
more accurate in telling the experimenter when it started and when it ended.
The process that controls awareness of particular categories or event in the environment is called
We take in more sensory information than we can process and store into short term memory.
Be exerting control over what comes into short term memory we can control what is stored into
long term memory and therefore leave out what we do not need.
Why dont we process all information? Broadbent says that the mechanisms that process
information have certain limits and cannot handle a certain amount.
Cherry did an experiment that involved Dichotic Listening. Subjects had to recognize one of two
sounds coming into each ear.
Subjects were asked to Shado