Consciousness. - dromana

Rene Descartes.
• Reasoned that the mind is a non-physical
entity (i.e. A soul), whereas the body is a
physical, fleshy structure (i.e. Matter)
• He believed mind and body interacted
through the pineal gland (a structure near the
centre of the brain.
• He believe the mind and body are two
different/separate things.
• Mind body problem: the problem of working out
the relationship between the conscious mind and
the physical brain.
• Do you think that the mind is a separate entity
from the brain or the body?
The belief that the mind is a separate The belief that the mind and body
entity from the body.
are a single entity.
• Materialistic monism: Consciousness is a result of
complex physical interactions between neurons.
William James –streams of
• The idea that consciousness is constantly
changing, that there is continual movement of
thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images,
sensations, and so on in and out of our conscious
• Consciousness is:
– Personal –unique to the individual
– Changing –constantly moves between topics and
– Selective –incorporates some data and ignores others.
– Continuous –has no beginning middles or gaps.
• Awareness of our thoughts, feelings and
perceptions (internal) and our surroundings
• Awareness of internal thoughts and feelings
and external stimuli in the environment.
• Awareness of objects and events in the
external world and of our own existence and
mental experience at any given moment.
• Consciousness is a hypothetical construct
because it is believed to exist and descriptions
are ‘constructed’ to explain it but it cannot be
directly observed or measured. (It is subjective).
• We experience multiple states of consciousness
– Asleep Vs. Awake
– Sober Vs. Intoxicated
– Concentrating in an exam Vs. Miss D’s class.
Normal waking consciousness.
• Normal waking consciousness can be loosely
defined as the state of consciousness you
experience when you are awake and aware of
your thoughts feelings and perceptions from
internal events and the surrounding
• Provides a baseline from which to judge all other
states of consciousness.
• General everyday state of consciousness, the one
you’re probably in now (unless your
daydreaming) is normal waking consciousness.
Altered State of Consciousness
• Altered states of consciousness occur when
there is a change from an ordinary pattern of
mental functioning to a state that seems
different to the person experiencing the
• Altered states of consciousness vary from the
slight distraction of a daydream to the major
confusion and perceptual distortions of drug
Characteristics of Normal Waking
Consciousness in terms of:
Content Limitations:
Controlled Process:
Automatic Process:
Perception & Cognitive Distortions:
Emotions Awareness
Self Control
Time Orientation.
Normal Waking Consciousness:
- Awareness.
Awareness refers to all current
perceptions, thoughts, motives
and feels.
Your awareness will vary will in
normal waking consciousness.
Normal waking consciousness
generally includes those in the
upper level of the continuum.
Normal Waking Consciousness:
Content Limitations.
• Content limitations is the process of selecting
which information to attend to at any one
• There is more information in the environment
than we can ever focus upon at one time, so
we usually limit ourselves to the content that
matters most.
Normal Waking Consciousness
Content Limitations
Selective and Divided attention.
• Attention is the concentration of mental activity that involves
focusing on specific stimuli while ignoring other stimuli.
• Selective attention is the ability to focus awareness on certain
stimuli while ignoring others.
• Cocktail party phenomenon: People quickly change their attention
focus from a current conversation when their name is spoken
somewhere in the room and then try to listen in to this new
• Divided attention is the ability to focus attention on two or more
activities simultaneously.
Content Limitations.
Altered States of Consciousness
Normal Waking Consciousness.
• In an ASC, especially a drug
induced ASC, our ability to
control our attention is
reduced and leads to a
reduction in content
limitation or an increase in
• Drug user may switch
attention every few seconds
or dwell on thoughts that
make them unhappy.
• Content limitation lets us
sort out and organise our
conscious thoughts in a
logical and coherent order.
• Can tune out information
that might have negative
emotional effects upon us.
Normal Waking Consciousness
Controlled and automatic processes.
• Automatic processes require little conscious
awareness and mental effort, minimal attention
and does not interfere with the performance of
other activities.
• When a controlled process is used, the
processing of information involves conscious,
alert awareness and mental effort in which the
individual actively focuses their attention on
achieving a particular goal.
Normal Waking Consciousness:
Perceptual and Cognitive Distortion.
• Perception is the process of organising
sensory input and giving it meaning. During
normal waking consciousness our perceptions
are usually clear and rational.
• Cognition is a broad term that relates to
mental activities such as thinking, problem
solving, language and reasoning.
Controlled Processes
Altered States of Consciousness
• Automatic processes may
still be possible during an
ASC because they don’t
require much conscious
• However, sometimes they
may require more control
during an ASC, like driving.
• Controlled processes may
be impossible.
Normal Waking Consciousness
• Controlled processes
require you to be alert and
focused and are usually best
done in NWC.
Altered States of Consciousness
Normal Waking Consciousness
• An ASC seems to have one of
two effects on the sense, it
either makes them more
receptive to external stimuli,
or dulls them to such an
extent that some sensations
are not experienced at all.
• May lose sense of identity.
• Thought processes are often
more disorganised (eg. during
• During normal waking
consciousness we have a sense of
reality, the brain actively stores
information in memory and
retrieves it from the memory for
use in thinking.
Emotional State
Altered State of Consciousness.
Normal Waking Consciousness.
• ASC appear to put
individuals into a state of
turmoil, resulting in
uncharacteristic responses.
Eg. In an alcohol induced
ASC some people become
more emotional and open.
May become emotionless or
emotions can be
• Emotional states are very
personal and difficult to
describe to others, but we
can usually assume that a
person in a NWC feels and
reacts to their emotions in a
‘normal’ or predictable way
Self Control
Altered States of Consciousness.
Normal Waking Consciousness.
• Changes in our ability to
maintain self control is evident
during ASC.
• Individuals often have
difficultly coordinating and
controlling movements
• Some ASC people gain greater
self control. EG therapeutic
use of hypnosis has helped
people to stop smoking.
• Generally have an accurate
sense of our self and our
identity and are used to
controlling our movements,
reactions and behaviours to
some extent.
Time Orientation.
Altered States of Consciousness.
Normal Waking Consciousness.
• Estimation of time can be
distorted significantly with
time passing faster or
• For example when you are
woken from nap you may
sometimes be surprise to
learn that only an house has
• Time is perceived as ‘real’.
Our sense of time is
typically good.
• We can make accurate
guesses as to what time it
is, estimate how long it took
to complete a task.
• Daydreams are a major part of the flow of
consciousness in which we turn out attention
from external to internal thoughts and
imagined scenarios.
• Daydreams seem to occur more less regularly,
about every 90 to 100 minutes in a day.
• Optimal conditions seem to be when we are
doing an unexciting or boring task or alone.
Daydream as an ASC
• Lowered level of awareness: especially in surround environment.
• Fewer content limitations: Often bizarre, uncommon or unrealistic
thoughts. Mind often wonders off with thoughts.
• Difficulty performing controlled process: daydreaming while driving
can lead to accidents. The ability to perform controlled tasks is
• Changes in emotional awareness: daydreams are more likely to be
positive or pleasurable and this may enhance our mood.
Unpleasant daydream can also reduce mood.
• Changes in self control: Monitoring you behaviour while
daydreaming is lowers as you focus on internal events. You may well
be dribble without noticing.
• Distortion of time orientation: we lose our sense of time. May go
fast or slow.
• Meditation involves the use of a technique to
deliberately alter normal waking
consciousness in order to induce an A.S.C
characterised by a deep state of relaxation.
• Brain scans indicate that person’s level of
awareness diminishes in a meditative state.
Mediation as an ASC
• Awareness: Overall level of awareness decreases. Level of pain can
decrease, awareness of external environment lowers.
• More or less content limitations: Attention is narrowly focused on
a single thought.
• Difficulty performing controlled processes: Unlikely to successfully
perform any controlled processes.
• Perceptual and cognitive distortions: Can remove pain by not
paying attention to it. Can lead ‘enlightenment’.
• Changes in emotional awareness: Can reduce feelings associated
with stress, reduce negative feelings.
• Changes in self control: Can increase your self control, takes many
years to master.
• Diminishing time orientation: Lose sense of time. Time can fly by
or remain stationary.
Alcohol-Induced States.
• Alcohol generally includes drinks such as beer, wine, or
• Alcohol is a psychoactive drug –these chemicals change
conscious awareness, perception and mood.
• Alcohol is also a depressant.
• Alcohol is often mistaken as a simulant because it
produces talkativeness and good humour however
these subjective experiences occur because alcohol
lessens inhibitions by depressing the activity of the
brain centres responsible for judgement and self
Alcohol as an ASC.
• Awareness: depresses nervous systems therefore reduces persons level of
awareness, difficulty concentration on everything, easily distracted, focus
on immediate and not future consequences.
• Content limitations: less restricted, information processed more broader,
may be irrational and illogical.
• Difficultly performing controlled processes: Carrying out complex tasks
becomes more difficult as reaction times and balance and co-ordination is
• Perceptual and cognitive distortion: Perception from senses is dulled.
• Emotional awareness: Gives a false sense of confidence. People can
become aggressive or sad.
• Self Control: People may take increased risks, can become over friendly,
• Time Orientation diminishes: Ability to track time is lost, can past slower
or faster.
Characteristics of Normal Waking
• Controlled process information processing
involving conscious, alert awareness and
mental effort.
• Automatic processes information processing
involving minimal awareness and mental

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