Consciousness

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  • Consciousness
    • Consciousness - The normal mental condition of the waking state of humans, characterised by the experience of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, awareness of the external world and of in humans...self-awareness
    • Qualia= sensations
    • Is consciousness  façade?; a way of attracting a mate
    • Greenfield - Consciousness works like a dimmer switch; as we progress through our development, it slowly emerges (no evidence)
    • James (1890) - All people unhesitatingly believe that they feel themselves thinking
    • Many psychologists ague that consciousness is a consequence of what we do (epiphenomenon)
    • Historically, people have taken 3 philosophical positions about the nature of consciousness
      • Consciousness is NOT a natural phenomena
      • Consciousness IS a natural phenomena, BUT, we CANT understand it (consciousness exists due to the nature of the human brain)
      • Consciousness is produced by the activity of the human brain and we should be optimistic about understanding it
    • The neurobiological approach suggests that consciousness arises from neural activity of the brain
    • Brain damage can alter human consciousness (e.g. people with retrograde amnesia can't form new vernal memories, BUT, can learn some new tasks)
    • Patients with blindsight have damage to the primary visual cortex
    • Split brain syndrome - corpus callosum and epilepsy
    • Split brain patients can be searching for different things with different hands as each half of the brain is making a different decision
    • Global workspace theory (Baar) - Consciousness is maintained in the central processor called global workspace (used to mediate activity of non-conscious processes)
    • Much of our conscious world is verbal
    • Selective attention - The process that controls our awareness of particular categories of events in the environment
    • Unconscious actions
      • Automatic processes are fast and parallel
      • Controlled processes operate slowly and serially
      • We don't process all sensory information due to a limited capacity system
      • Filter Model of Selective Attention (Broadbent - 1958) - All sensory information enters a sensory buffer; one of the inputs is then selected on the basis of physical characteristics and processed further
      • Treisman's attention model (1964) - A sensory filter weakens (rather than eliminates) unattended material
      • Implicit learning - Learning without awareness or perception
      • Consciousness allows us to deal with novel events and override automatic behaviour
    • So what does consciousness do?
      • Consciousness allows us to resist stimuli
      • It also allows us to learn from our mistakes
      • Hypnosis - Verbal suggestions made by 1 individual can be acted on by another who would not normally or voluntarily perform those tasks (alters someone's consciousness)
      • Sleep research often uses an electroencephalogram (EEG)
      • Sleep - Complex combination of states of consciousness
    • Sleep
      • Stages of sleep and EEG waves...
        • Stage 1 - Theta waves (higher in amplitude and lower in frequency than alpha waves)
        • Stage 2 - High frequency bursts of brain activity (sleep spindles) and K complexes
        • Stage 3 - Falling into a deep sleep; EEG waves have a very high amplitude and very low frequency delta waves
        • Stage 4 - Sleep spindles; woken without much difficulty, but clearly asleep
        • Stage 5 (REM sleep) - For about 10 mins, brain waves are rapid and sore toothed. Heart rate rises and breathing is rapid and irregular
    • Sleep disorders
      • Insomnia - Recurring problems in falling or staying asleep
      • Natural ways of helping insomniacs includes relaxing before bed and avoiding caffeine and late afternoon
      • Sleep disorders seem to be increasing; some believe that this is due to the blue light given out by computer equipment (impacts melatonin, which is key in the sleep wake cycle
      • Narcolepsy - Sleep disorder characterised by uncontrollable sleep attacks (typically lasts less than 5 mins)
      • Sleep apnea - A sleep disorder characterised by temporarily stopping breathing during sleep and consequent momentary awakenings
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