Introduction to psychology/Consciousness

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Consciousness is the processing of information at various levels of awareness.

According to Freud, there are three main levels of consciousness and three competing aspects of "self".

According to Freud, there are three main Levels of Consciousness:

  1. Conscious Mind: what we are aware of in everyday life
  2. Preconscious Mind: where we store information we have learned
  3. Unconscious Mind: where we keep information that is not yet readily available to us (unpleasant memories)

Psychologists divide the Study of Consciousness into two distinct categories:

  1. Waking Consciousness (aka consciousness awareness)
  2. Altered State of Consciousness (ASC)

Waking Consciousness: The awareness of sensations and thoughts while we are awake.

Psychologists study Waking Consciousness through:

  • Memory
  • Language
  • Perception
  • Problem Solving

Altered State of Consciousness: a state of consciousness in which there is a redirection of attention, a different type of mental state.

Examples of ASC are:

  • Daydreaming
  • Sleep
  • Dreaming
  • Hypnosis
  • Meditation
  • Drug induced states of mind


There are two main types of sleep:

REM: Rapid Eye Movement sleep, a very active type of sleep

Non-REM: non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep, envelops the more passive stages of sleep

Electroencephalogram (EEG): the record of brain wave activity.

When we go to bed each night, we pass through four stages of non-Rem sleep before reaching REM sleep.

Stage 1: Relaxation to sound sleep

Stage 2: Deeper Sleep, harder to awaken

Stage 3: Bounce between stage 2,4

Stage 4: "deep sleep" - hard to wake up

REM Sleep: "dream sleep"

  • Heart Rate increases
  • Blood Pressure increases
  • Eyes move quickly back and forth
  • Twitching of the face and fingers
  • Large muscles of the body are paralyzed

Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep. When awaken from REM sleep, 83% of people could recall their dreams.

Theories of sleep[edit]

Michael Jouvet: leading researcher in the field of neural sleep control

Raphe Nucleus: Area in the back of the brain involved in non-REM sleep.

Locus Coeruleus: Area of the brain that is involved in REM sleep -> inhibits muscle tone -> paralyzing the person from acting in their dreams.

Functions of sleep[edit]

What exactly are the functions of sleep?

  • Restoration of the body
  • Stress Relief
  • Memory Consolidation
  • Rest!

One must be deprived of sleep and then note changes that occur in their behavior.

What are the results of sleep deprivation?

  • irritability
  • increased anxiety
  • changes in personality
  • easily bothered/flustered
  • decrease in mental capabilities

Sleep disorders[edit]

  • Millions of people today suffer from a variety of sleep disorders
  • Sleep disorders can be divided into two major categories

Dyssomnias: chief symptom of the disturbance in the amount and quality of sleep.

Parasomnias: chief symptom is an unusual event that disturbs sleep.

Insomnia: the inability to sleep.

  • 6% of men and 14% of women suffer from insomnia.
  • Problems may be due to anxiety, stress, fear, excitement and/or depression.

Sleep Apnea: a person may fall asleep easily, but then breathing stops and you wake up gasping for air.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, aka "Crib Death"):

  • leading cause of infant mortality
  • Neural structure not advanced enough to wake up when you stop breathing.

Narcolepsy: sleep disorder

  • fall asleep at any point in the day
  • extremely unpredictable
  • Once asleep -> right into REM sleep


Sleep walking- NonREM stage of sleep. Person walks in his/her own sleep.

Sleep Terror Disorder- occurs when children wake up screaming and when asked not know why.

Psychoactive drugs[edit]

Drug: any foreign chemical substance that alters the functioning of a biological system.

Psychoactive Drug: causes changes in behavior and cognition by modifying conscious awareness.

Psychopharmacology: the science of the effects of psychoactive drugs on behavior and cognition.

ex. Alcohol, opium and Nicotine.

Psychological Dependence- when a person craves the drug even though it is not biologically needed in the body in order to survive.

Physical Dependence: a condition in which the habitual user's body becomes biochemically dependent; if the person stops taking the drugs, they will experience unpleasant physical reactions.

Depressants: central nervous system active drugs that have a sedative, or sleep inducing efect.

This group generally includes:

  • Alcohol
  • Anesthetics
  • Tranquilizers (Valium)
  • Anti anxiety Drugs


  • Most frequently used depressant drug available today,
  • Varies widely in concentration from beer to hard liquor.
  • Disrupts REM sleep, motor coordination, thinking and perception.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Infants born to women alcoholics have congenital malformations.


  • Refer to drugs whose effect on the body is similar to morphine -> Pain Reliever
  • Codeine, Morphine, heroin.
  • Comes from opium poppy plant.
  • Affect the central nervous system mainly.

Sense of pleasure and euphoria, some users may develop a tolerance to opiates or become chemically dependent based on a variety of factors including: age, weight, dosage level, pain level and reason for use (recreational or medical). Every person has a different biological reaction to opiates.


  • Drugs that increase central nervous system activity and behavior speed.
  • Produces feeling of alertness and euphoria.

Caffeine and nicotine, cocaine and amphetamines.

  • Caffeine: most widely used stimulant
  • Nicotine: contained in tobacco of cigarettes
    • Withdrawal can occur by stopping the intake of any of the above substances.

Psychedelic drugs[edit]

Psychedelic Drugs: (aka hallucinogens), not only change in emotional feelings but also changes the perception of the external world.

This group generally includes:





-Effects include brightly colored visual illusions and vivid dreamlike thoughts.

-Sense of existing outside the body.

-Intense emotional feelings

-Social and physical setting can determine the degree of the altered state of consciousness.


-Dates back to around 2,700 BC.

-Mixture of leaves and flowers of a cannibus plant.

-psychological effects include a sense of well being, feelings of relaxation and vivid awareness of perceptions.

-High doses result in confusion, hallucinations and feelings of panic.

Antipsychotic drugs[edit]

-Major Tranquilizers

-Used to treat several disruptions in psychological functions in people.

Patients treated seem to be more relaxed and less anxious then they were before.

There drugs are not usually used for recreational purposes.


What is hypnosis?

-Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness and involves producing trances in people. These may have a hallucinatory or dreamlike quality but the alteration of brain wave activity is the main object of applying various techniques of inducing an hypnotic state.

-Hypnosis can be induced in various ways but in a therapeutic setting it is almost invariably done via suggestion (verbal and non-verbal). Shock and Command can also be used to induce an hypnotic state as can other ethically dubious subtle methods of waking-hypnosis and sleeping-hypnosis.

Hypnosis in a therapeutic setting is most likely to involve:

-A relaxing setting

-A preamble designed to settle the client down (but not necessarily remove anxiety, which can be exploited to induce trance by building an expectation) and preparation of the subject for the session

-Suggestions that aim to turn attention inward and help to relax the body and the mind, progressively

-A test of the depth of the state of hypnosis may be executed (e.g. eye closure, rigid arm)

-Information gathering and/ or a therapeutic undertaking

-Arousal to normal waking state.

No one type of personality is distinctly more susceptible to being hypnotized than another although an inability to focus thoughts and unusually rigid mind can be problematic.

Ernest Hilgard (1987) reported that the best subjects for hypnosis are those who have good imaginations and the ability to fantasize.

What are some of the uses of hypnosis?

-Control Pain

-Change Behavior

-Improve Memory

-Modify Perception

Most common use of hypnosis has been in controlling everyday behavior problems.



Hypnosis can be used to help individuals to remember events that have been forgotten. Great care needs to be taken to investigate 'lost' memories using an objective method as the heightened suggestibility of the mind in an hypnotic trance can lead to the induction of false memories when possible 'facts' are implied by the practitioner's questioning method. The consensus seems to be that the use of hypnosis for lost memory recovery does not offer a distinct advantage over other systematic methods of uncovering forgotten memories. More research is required to identify the best method of recovering lost memories.

-Witnesses to remember crime details

-Victims to remember facts.

What do you think of the validity of the results? Can we trust the results???

Meditation and rest[edit]

Meditation: the practice of some form of relaxed concentration that can block distracting sensory stimuli.

Effects of Meditation: Enhance self-esteem and confidence. Reduces stress, anxiety and blood pressure.

Types of Meditaion:

-Zen: focus is on breathing

-Yoga: focus is on a phrase, assume a certain position or object.

-Transcendental: repeats a certain sound over a period of time.


-Restricted -Environmental -Stimulation -Technique

Technique is used to study sensory deprivation -> when stimuli availiable to an individual reduced drastically.

Possible questions[edit]

  1. Define Hypnosis. What are some of its uses? What are some of the negative aspects of hypnosis?
  2. What are the biological differences between stimulants and depressants? What are the effects on the body?
  3. What are the types of sleep disorders? Why do they occur?
  4. What are the differences between REM and non-REM sleep?
  5. How is sleep deprivation studied? What are some effects of sleep deprivation.

Additional reading[edit]

  • Consciousness at Wikipedia
  • Consciousness Studies at Wikibooks
  • Sleep and Wakefulness -Chapter 28 in Neuroscience by Dale Purves et al. (2001) Published by Sinauer Associates, Inc. ISBN 0-87893-742-0
  • Neuroscience/Sleep at Wikibooks