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Chapter 1: Consciousness

What is consciousness?:
• The awareness of our internal and external environments is an ever-changing array of thoughts, feelings and sensations known as consciousness. • Your consciousness consists of all the thoughts, feelings and memories you are aware of at any given moment. It is easy to manipulate. • Consciousness is personal because it consists of your understanding of the world around you. • Consciousness is selective because you pay attention to something's in the environment and ignore others. • Consciousness is continuous because its contents are blended into one another with no specific beginning or end. • Finally, consciousness is changing, as your thoughts are constantly moving from topic to topic. • Sometimes consciousness is filled with internal thoughts and feelings while at other times it is external sensations. • Something that cannot be seen and is unique to everyone is difficult to conceptualize; however, people have not stopped theorizing about consciousness. • Descartes is one of the most well-known people to of theorized about consciousness. He wanted to see if anything could be said to exist certainty. • Descartes had the conclusion that the only thing he could be sure of was that he existed (cogito ergo sum- I think therefore I am). He described himself as a 'thinking thing'. • He was the first philosopher to clearly link the mind with consciousness and identify it as a non-physical thing separate from the brain (Descartes, 1641). • This resulted in a school of thought know as dualism, this school of thought hosts a variety of views about the relationship between mind and matter. • Dualism claims that mental phenomena such as consciousness are in some respects non-physical. • William James (1842-1910) adopted the philosophy of dualism as the underpinning of psychology. • He thought that the most appropriate way to define human consciousness was to compare it to a stream, this is because similar to a stream consciousness is constant and ever changing. • Consciousness consists of a random flow of thoughts, feelings, memories and sensations that pass fleetingly through our mind. He suggested that this flow is endless and there is never a gap between the end of one thought and the beginning of another. • Consciousness helps us survive by allowing us to learn and adapt and deal with the environment around us.

States of consciousness:
• State of consciousness refers to an individual’s level of awareness of stimuli both external and internal. • There are no distinct boundaries to indicate where one state of consciousness begins and another ends. • Consciousness is often placed on a continuum from a complete lack of awareness (unconsciousness) to total awareness (focused attention). • At the high end of the continuum your attention is focused and you’re able to concentrate on specific tasks and ignore other less important information. • At the low end of the continuum you may be unaware of thoughts, feeling and sensations. • Normal waking consciousness: (NWC)

• A state of clear, organized alertness to external and internal stimuli. • This state is at the high end of the continuum and we perceive time correctly and places and events are real, meaningful and familiar. • Everyone has an individual consciousness that is personal and unique although there are common characteristics that a shown in NWC. These include: • Moderate to high levels of awareness.

• Good memory and cognitive abilities.
• Focused attention on specific tasks.
• An accurate perception of reality.
• Appropriate emotions.
• A degree of self-control.
• An accurate perception of time and sensations.
• Altered states of consciousness: (ASC)
• Any state of consciousness that is distinctly different from NWC. It may differ from NWC in a variety of ways including the levels of awareness and the quality and intensity of sensation, perceptions, thoughts and...
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