STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Year 12 Psychology Unit 3 – The Conscious Self Area of Study 1: Mind, Brain and Body Chapter 2 (pages 96 to 131) STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Level of awareness of our internal state & external events. This determines how much of this information we take in & respond to. NOT ‘all or nothing’ – our degree of awareness varies at different times, depending on what’s happening or what we are doing. Psychologists often describe consciousness as a continuum or scale, with no clear boundaries between the different states. STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DESCRIBING CONSCIOUSNESS Awareness of objects and events in the external world and in our own internal world and mental processes Characteristics: Selective – you choose what you are aware of Continuous – never ‘empty’ Changing – new information is coming into our awareness CATEGORIES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Many different states, but psychologists generally agree on two broad categories: Normal Waking Consciousness Attention Selective Attention & Divided Attention Content Limitations Controlled & Automatic Processes Altered States of Consciousness Distortions of Perception & Cognition Time Orientation Changes in Emotional Awareness Changes in Self-Control Activity: 2.3 NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS Definition: Associated with being awake & aware of internal & external experiences (feelings, thoughts, sensations, memory etc.). To fully understand NWC, psychologists often compare these experiences with those of altered states of consciousness (see slides further on). Characteristics: Perception and thoughts = organised Perceptions = real; sense of time and place Continually shift between different states (top end of continuum) NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: ATTENTION Concentration of mental activity that involves focusing on specific stimuli & ignoring others; changing focus is like using a torch/flashlight to select different things to look at. Way of distinguishing between different states of consciousness: states at top of continuum require more attention than those at bottom end. Attention can be focused internally (thoughts, feelings, etc.) or externally (sounds, smells, etc.). NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: ATTENTION SELECTIVE ATTENTION Choosing to focus on certain stimuli while ignoring other stimuli (top of continuum). At any time, the focus (‘flashlight’) of our attention is only on a small part of what we are capable of experiencing overall. Research has shown that if people focus on a particular stimuli (selective attention) they fail to notice most of the other information that exists around them. CAN YOU CONTROL THE FOCUS OF YOUR ATTENTION? Watch the clip...Awareness Test Can you use selective attention to follow the instructions correctly? OR Will you become distracted by other stimuli and miss out on important information? NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: ATTENTION SELECTIVE ATTENTION RESEARCH Ulric Neisser & Robert Becklen (1975) showed participants two videotapes, one superimposed over the other: 1. 2. Three people passing a basketball to each other (participants press button when ball thrown); Two people playing a hand-clapping game (participants press button when hands slap). To minimise extraneous variables, they used an independent groups design (each participant was randomly allocated to either the basketball or the hands group). NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: ATTENTION SELECTIVE ATTENTION RESEARCH RESULTS: Participants in both groups were able to selectively attend to the stimulus they were assigned (the hands or the basketball) and block out other stimuli. Their ‘flashlight’ was so successful that out of 24 participants in the basketball group, only one noticed when the hand-clapping game finished and the two players shook hands. Activity: 2.8 This suggests selective attention may control what information enters our consciousness and what information gets left out. NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: ATTENTION SELECTIVE ATTENTION THEORIES What determines whether we will focus on a stimulus or not? If it is personally important to us; If the stimulus changes or if a new/unusual (‘novel’) stimulus is introduced; Television advertisements use loud noise, colour, etc. Does selective attention stop all other info? Cocktail Party Phenomenon – we hear our name over everything else, even if we are focused on other stimuli. Listening to friends in class, but open to correct page. We process some info outside conscious awareness. NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: ATTENTION DIVIDED ATTENTION The ability to distribute our attention & do two or more things at the same time (simultaneously). Ability to divide our attention depends on how much conscious effort is required for each task. Research shows that we can multitask as long as the tasks are not complex (minimal mental effort). Understanding our attention limits has become important in the debate over whether we should use mobile phones while we are driving. NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: ATTENTION DIVIDED ATTENTION RESEARCH Duncan (1993) asked participants to look at an object on a screen & do two things simultaneously: identify the object AND its location on the screen. Most participants could do this with few errors. When participants had to complete the two tasks simultaneously, for two objects at once, their errors increased significantly. Complex tasks require selective attention. NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: CONTENT LIMITATIONS The type of information held in our consciousness is more restricted during normal waking because we can control it: we can ignore things we don’t like, pay more attention to nice things, etc. During altered states of consciousness, we generally don’t have the same control, so the information we receive is less limited. Normal waking content is also usually more organised & logical. NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: QUESTION What are the two different types of attention that one can posses? Give an example for both. What is the definition of consciousness? What is one other thing you can remember from what you have covered so far? NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: CONTROLLED & AUTOMATIC PROCESSES Controlled Processes (use selective attention): Usually more difficult/complex; Require high conscious awareness & mental effort; Can usually only perform one at a time; E.g. learning something new, like driving a car. Over time, controlled may become automatic… Activity: 2.7 Automatic Processes (use divided attention): Usually easier, less complex; Require little conscious awareness or mental effort; Do not interfere with performance of other activities. NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: CONTROLLED & AUTOMATIC THE STROOP EFFECT J. Ridley Stroop (1935) tested his theory of interference by measuring participants’ errors & response speed when trying to process conflicting information (colour versus word). Used a repeated measures design (each participant was in both the experimental & control conditions). Controlled the order effects of practice & fatigue by making sure that half the participants saw the experimental, then the control whilst half saw them in a different order. STROOP’S EXPERIMENTAL CONDITION (IN CONTROL CONDITION THE COLOURS MATCHED THE WORDS) NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS: CONTROLLED & AUTOMATIC THE STROOP EFFECT Stroop Effect occurs because our automatic process interferes with our controlled process: Automatic – easy, requires minimal mental effort; Reading words (esp. easy ones, like colours). Controlled – complex, requires lots of mental effort; Activity: 2.5 Ignoring the word & saying a different colour. Psychologist have found that this occurs even with non-colour words, such as ‘truck’. Researchers found that when presented with conflicting stimuli, we cannot stop our controlled processes from taking over, even if we want to. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Definition: Any state of consciousness that is distinctly different from NWC in terms of distortion of changes (level of awareness, experience, quality or intensity of sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, memories). Distinct mental processing changes occur; cognitive processes or perceptions of self/world may change & normal inhibitions/self-control may weaken. Some occur naturally; some are purposely induced. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Psychological changes that occur in ASC vary greatly from person to person. BUT There are some common characteristics: Perceptual & Cognitive Distortions; Disturbed Sense of Time; Changes in Emotional Awareness; Changes in Self-Control. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DISTORTIONS OF PERCEPTION & COGNITION Makes senses more receptive to external stimuli: e.g. some drugs may make colours appear brighter, sounds louder, smells stronger, touch more sensitive – some people may even hallucinate and experience perceptions of stimuli that are not really there. OR Dulls senses to the point that some sensations are not experienced at all: e.g. in meditation the individual may be able to focus their concentration so that their normal pain threshold is increased, or they may feel no pain at all. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DISTORTIONS OF PERCEPTION & COGNITION Perceptions are often so distorted that people may lose their sense of identity: They may feel that they are someone else; They may feel like they are ‘outside themselves’ looking in. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DISTORTIONS OF PERCEPTION & COGNITION Thought processes are often more disorganised, both in waking ASC and dreaming during sleep: Thinking is often illogical and lacking in sequence which may lead to difficulties in problem-solving. People often have trouble remembering events that occur during an ASC: Unable to recall in detail the events that occurred while intoxicated; Short-term memory impairment & subtle changes in thinking as a result of marijuana use; Difficulty recalling information from long-term memory in some cases, but this is usually restored in NWC. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: TIME ORIENTATION Estimation of time is frequently distorted: it may appear to be quicker or to pass very slowly. e.g. waking up from what feels like a long nap and being surprised to discover that you have only been asleep for a relatively short time. OR e.g. waking up after getting 8 hours of sleep and feeling like you have only just shut your eyes. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: CHANGES IN EMOTIONAL AWARENESS ASCs may impact on emotions in a variety of ways: Put an individual’s feelings into a state of turmoil which leads to uncharacteristic responses; Make an individual feel emotionless; e.g. no reaction to stimuli that normally makes them emotional. Lead to inappropriate emotions; e.g. Drunken “I love you soooooo much”. e.g. laughing at tragic news or crying when told a joke. Lead to unpredictable emotional responses; e.g. may burst into tears or become aggressive for no reason. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: CHANGES IN SELF-CONTROL ASCs may lead to an individual losing self-control: Drunken lack of coordination & intense emotions; Being more open to suggestion when hypnotised. ASCs may also sometimes help individuals to gain more self-control: Hypnosis to help quit smoking or other addictions, or to manage chronic pain. Activity: 2.11 ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DAYDREAMING ASC in which we shift our attention from external stimuli to internal thoughts, feelings and imagined scenarios: More likely to occur when stationary, perhaps because active behaviour and directed attention are ‘turned off’; May be our consciousness responding to an unchanging external world by turning inward. Usually quite different to night dreams: Daydreams = minimal eye movement, high levels of alpha brain waves; Content often less organised and meaningful than night dreams. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DAYDREAMING – ITS PURPOSE Freud: we use daydreams to act out in our fantasies things that we are unable to do in reality. Wish fulfillment: reduces frustration and tension. Empirical research provides some support for this view. Singer: daydreams enable us to mentally try a range of options for various situations. Schachter: daydreaming helps us to solve problems. Researchers found that students spend about half their NWC time in daydreams! ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: ALCOHOL-INDUCED STATE Psychoactive drug: chemical that changes conscious awareness, perception or moods. Depressant: causes initial euphoria but only by depressing activity of brain centres responsible for inhibitions, judgement & self-control. Effect on consciousness depends on concentration of alcohol, amount, individual variables and conditions under which it is consumed. Excessive consumption severely impacts on brain functioning and may even cause death. ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: ALCOHOL-INDUCED STATE - Activity: 2.12 EXPERIENCES Shortened attention span; Impaired perceptions; Read pages 119 and 120 Impaired thinking; Impaired memory; Slower reaction times; Reduced self-awareness; Impaired emotional awareness and control; Impaired perception of time; Less self-control; Difficulties with voluntary muscular control and fine movements; Deterioration in performance of complex tasks. QUALITIES SEPARATING NWC VS. ASC NWC LEVEL OF ATTENTION AWARENESS CONTENT LIMITATIONS CONTROLLED & AUTOMATIC PROCESSES PERCEPTION & COGNITION TIME ORIENTATION EMOTIONAL AWARENESS & SELF CONTROL ASC MEASURING PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Consciousness can be difficult to study because it is a hypothetical construct: something that is believed to exist, but cannot be directly observed or measured. ‘Psychological construct’: constructed to describe specific psychological activity or patterns. We can only infer (assume) what someone’s state of consciousness is, based on their behaviour or physiological measurements. MEASURING PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Observations of behaviour are subjective (based on the researcher’s interpretation) and can be biased, so measurements of physiological responses are more reliable. BUT Physiological responses occur for many reasons, not just because of changes in consciousness, so to look at them in isolation would be misleading – need to use a combination of measurements, observations and self-reports from the individuals. MEASURING PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: ELECTRICAL ACTIVITY OF THE BRAIN Brain wave patterns can vary in frequency (number of waves per second): this is judged by the number of waves in a cycle of activity (measured by EEG). High frequency = faster (more waves per second); Low frequency = slower (less waves per second). Brain wave patterns can vary in amplitude (intensity): this is judged by the size of peaks and troughs compared to a baseline of zero activity. High amplitude = bigger peaks and troughs; Low amplitude = smaller peaks and troughs. MEASURING PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: ELECTRICAL ACTIVITY OF THE BRAIN Beta Waves – NWC, alert, active, concentrating; Alpha Waves – NWC, relaxed, wakeful, meditative; High frequency & low amplitude (but bigger than Beta). Theta Waves – ASC, early stages of sleep; High frequency (fast) & low amplitude (small). Medium frequency & both high and low amplitude. Delta Waves – ASC, deepest stages of sleep; Slow frequency & high amplitude (large). HINT: BOYS ALWAYS THINK DIRTY Activity: 2.14 MEASURING PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: HEART RATE, BODY TEMPERATURE & GSR Heart rate: May increase (e.g. substance use) or decrease (e.g. sleep). Body Temperature: Less variable than heart rate but there are patterns; Most predictable ASC-related body temperature change is during sleep, when it drops by more than 1°C. Galvanic Skin Response (GSR): Measures changes in electrical conductivity of skin; More sweat = more electrical conductivity = higher emotional arousal. SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED ABOUT CONSCIOUSNESS… There are two main types of consciousness: Normal Waking Consciousness (NWC); Altered States of Consciousness (ASC). There are no clear boundaries between the different stages of consciousness on the continuum. Selective attention can be very focused, to the point that it excludes other information. Our ability to multitask is affected by the complexity of the task. Activity: 2.15 ASCs can be identified by examining both psychological & physiological responses.