CONTINUUM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Awareness of the outside world and your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and other mental processes
Doctors: awareness that is demonstrated by either explicit or implicit recall (surgery)
0.2 % of surgical patients (under general anesthesia) retain some degree of consciousness
3 Central Questions
1. What is the relationship between the conscious body and the physical brain? AKA: Mind-body question
Dualism: They are separate (Descartes), pineal gland as the "third eye", discredited
Materialism: the same, like hardware and software combining to form an image on a screen, current belief
3 Central Questions
2. Is consciousness a unified phenomenon or several different ones?
-Theater view: various aspects of awareness converge on the "stage" to "play" before the "audience" of your mind
-Parallel Distributed Process (PDP) model:
mind processes parallel streams of information which interact somehow to create consciousness
3 Central Questions
3. What is the relationship between conscious and unconscious activities?
-Freud had lots of ideas, many discounted, but current brain research does support the idea that many important mental activities do occur outside of our awareness.
Functions of Consciousness
Produce the best current interpretation of sensory information in light of past experience and make the interpretation available to parts of the brain that need it
Allows access to a vast store of information through memory processes (study on pictures)
Everchanging, multilayered, varying in both quantity (levels) and quality (states)
Levels vs. States
When you are alert and aware of your mental activity and incoming sensations, you are fully conscious. However, at the same time other mental activity is taking place within your brain at various distances or levels of consciousness.
When your experience of yourself and incoming stimuli vary in focus and clarity, then you have variations in your states of consciousness.
Levels of Consciousness
Conscious: at any moment, the mental events that you are aware of exist here (Necker Cube example)
Nonconscious: mental events that cannot be experienced consciously (brain regulating blood pressure)
Preconscious: outside of awareness, but can easily be brought out (Last night’s dinner?)
Unconscious (subconscious): mental activity that influences consciousness, but is not conscious (for example: priming)
General anesthesia patients: While still unconscious, audiotape of 15 word pairs were played over and over, afterwards they couldn’t remember anything, but…when given one of the words in each pair, patients would produce the other
Patterns: Flashing of X’s on different places on the screen in a complex pattern, without being able to explain the pattern ($ 100 bribe didn’t even work), participants could follow it by becoming faster and more accurate
Blindsight: When the primary visual cortex is damaged causing blindness, sometimes other pathways may permit vision without awareness! (report seeing nothing, but accurately locating visual targets, identifying directions of moving objects, naming color of lights, identifying emotion in faces)
Priming: People tend to respond faster and more accurately to previously seen stimuli, even if they don’t recall seeing it. Unscrambling sentences with emotional cues caused people to act later in similar ways to the emotion (rude words = later more likely to interrupt)
IAT – correlates with consciously held attitudes (age prejudice)
Prosopagnosia: cannot consciously recall familiar faces (can still recognize many objects and people by their voices) but…show eye movement patterns, changes in brain activity, and autonomic nervous system responses that don’t occur when viewing unfamiliar faces
Anterograde amnesia: inability to form new memories, but … can still learn new skills (without remembering anything about learning them)
Overall, unconscious processing may help us to carry out more effectively mundane day to day activities.
States of Consciousness
Sleep and Dreams