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Chapter 2: states of consciousness

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Jemma Craig

on 18 February 2015

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Transcript of Chapter 2: states of consciousness

Consciousness...what is it...?
Definition: consciousness is the awareness of external events and objects as well as our internal/mental experiences all of the time
Altered states of consciousness
- lower end of continuum
Normal waking consciousness
- at the top of continuum
- attention is used by researchers to determine what state of consciousness a person is in
Alcohol-induced state

Chapter 2: states of consciousness
- Personal, selective, continuous and changing
- it includes our thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, memories, attitudes, beliefs etc
Controlled vs Automatic Processes


Total lack of awareness

Total awareness
Focused attention
Normal wakefulness
- is not one state of consciousness but an umbrella term for a bunch of different degrees with a heightened awareness (levels of awareness)
- is divided into two categories: selective and divided attention
Selective vs Divided Attention
- focusing on a specific stimulus whilst ignoring other stimuli
- divided your attention between multiple stimuli at once (multi-tasking)
- tasks that are new, unfamiliar or difficult for us
- demands heightened awareness, heavy attention, focus, and usually a lot of time
- tasks that are familiar and simple
- demands little awareness, attention, focus and time
- goes hand in hand with selective attention
- relates heavily to divided attention
States of Consciousness
- is split up into two general categories: normal waking consciousness and altered states of consciousness
- no boundaries or clear distinctions
- refers to how much information we take in internally and externally
- variations in quantity of awareness at different times
- is the concentration of mental activity within the brain on a specific stimulus/stimuli whilst ignoring other stimuli
- can focus attention internally and externally
- will usually switch attention to another stimuli if it's personal, important to us or changing
- tasks at hand must be easy, familiar and we must be somewhat good at them
- can only do one controlled process at a time

- individual needs to be awake, alert and actively involved in achieving a goal
- can do multiple automatic processes at one time, can also do automatic and controlled process at same time
- individual is usually experienced/good at it, doesn't need to consciously think
- refers to states when we are alert and awake and aware of everything externally (objects, events and sensations) and internally (thoughts, emotions and memories)
Methods used to determine
states of consciousness
Galvanic Skin Response
Body Temperature
- measures electrical activity in the brain aka: brain waves
- measures electrical activity of the heart and records it

- measures electrical conductivity in the skin (how much sweat you produce) by attaching electrodes to fingers, palm of hand or other areas lacking hair
Brain Waves
- developed by Hans Berger (I would like to buy a Hans Bergerrr)
- four different types of brain waves: beta, alpha, theta and delta waves
Beta Waves
Alpha Waves
Theta Waves
Delta Waves
- high frequency (lots of points, fast)

- low amplitude (small points)

- associated with highly focused, alert states of normal waking consciousness
- high frequency (slower than beta waves)

- low amplitude (bigger points than beta waves)

- associated with relaxed states of normal waking consciousness
- medium frequency (slower than beta and alpha waves)

- mixture of high and low amplitudes

- early stages of sleep, dreaming sleep (REM)
- lowest frequency

- highest amplitude (big points)

- deep stages of sleep
- we can 'measure' consciousness by using self-reports, observing behaviour or identifying physiological changes in things such as brain wave activity, skin conductivity, core body temperature and heart rate
- consciousness is hard to study because you cannot directly measure it, because it's a psychological/hypothetical construct

- measures heart's speed and rhythm

- attaches electrodes to chest

- can indicate levels of awareness
- closely associated with emotional experiences
- can be due to strenuous physical activity during normal waking consciousness or ASC's such as a physical health problem, or due to sleep (drops one degree)
Content Limitations
- we can hold a more restricted/limited amount of content in NWC than in an ASC
- we can control the type of information we take in through selective attention
- we can block out memories/thoughts that make us feel undesired emotions such as embarrassment, sadness, anger etc
- the content in our consciousness is more organised and logical in NWC opposed to an ASC
Distinguishing Characteristics of Different States of Consciousness
- experience of time
- cognitive abilities
- controlled vs automatic processes
- level of awareness
- perceptions
General changes
Psychological changes
- self control
- emotional awareness
- brain waves
- eye movement
- electrical conductivity in the skin
- heart rate
- body temperature
- change in your mental awareness that effects your normal everyday functioning
- distinctively different from NWC due to obvious changes
- ASC's can be natural (sleeping, dreaming, daydreaming) or self-induced (alcohol, illegal or prescribed drugs, meditation, hypnosis)
- changes vary from person to person but there are some similar characteristics we can see
Characteristics of Altered States of Consciousness
Distortions in perception
Distortions in cognition
Disturbed sense or experience of time
Changes in emotional awareness and self-control
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