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Chapter 7: States of Consciousness. Consciousness and information processing: For most psychologists today, “consciousness” is our awareness of ourselves.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 7: States of Consciousness. Consciousness and information processing: For most psychologists today, “consciousness” is our awareness of ourselves."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 7: States of Consciousness

2 Consciousness and information processing: For most psychologists today, “consciousness” is our awareness of ourselves and our environment. Conscious awareness allows us to exert voluntary control and to communicate our mental states to others. Consciousness is relatively slow and has limited capacity but is skilled at solving novel problems – it is like a chief executive, whose many assistants automatically take care of routine business. Travelling a familiar route, your hands and feet do the driving while your mind is elsewhere…

3 We process a great deal of information outside our awareness – we register and react to stimuli we do not consciously perceive. Beneath the surface, unconscious information processing occurs simultaneously on many parallel tracks. When we see a bear, we are consciously aware of unconscious processing (size, shape, color, etc.). Consciousness is nature’s way of keeping us from thinking and doing everything at once.

4 Sleep and Dreams: Our body’s follow “biological rhythms”: periodic physiological fluctuations (controlled by internal ‘biological clocks’). One such cycle is the “circadian rhythm”: regular body rhythms that occur in a 24- hour period (body temp decreases during sleep)... Jet Lag / Light effects. At what point of the day are you at your sharpest (when is learning/memory their peak)? Recent evidence suggests that thinking is sharpest and memory most accurate when people are at their daily peak in circadian arousal – this shifts from night to morning throughout the life span.

5 Sleep Stages: In a relaxed, awake state the brain produces “alpha waves”. Eventually, these waves become slower and slower and we fall into a state of “sleep”: periodic, natural, reversible loss of consciousness (unconscious = coma). Our dive into sleep is marked by slowed breathing and irregular brain waves. There is a distinct biological rhythm to sleep – about every 90 minutes we pass through a cycle of 5 distinct stages.

6 Stage 1: Slowed breathing, irregular brain waves, “hallucinations”: sensory experiences that occur without a sensory stimulus (falling  jerking body) – lasts seconds/minutes. Stage 2: “sleep spindles”: bursts of rapid, rhythmic brainwave activity, sleep- talking, can still be awakened without difficulty – 20 minutes. Stage 3 and 4: large slow “delta waves” of deep sleep, hard to awaken (sleep walking and bed-wetting occur in children at the end of 4 – 30 minutes. *An hour after you fall asleep, you return to Stage 3 and 2 (where you spend most of the night) and fall into “REM sleep”: rapid eye movement REM Sleep: erratic brainwaves, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, vivid dreams. In REM, your muscles are totally relaxed (similar to paralysis). The rapid eye movement itself announces the beginning of a dream (80% of people can remember a dream when waken during REM sleep). This cycle repeats itself throughout the night – eventually stage 4 sleep gets briefer and briefer, while REM gets longer – most people experience over 1,500 dreams per year and over 100,000 in a lifetime.

7 Why do we sleep? Newborns spend 2/3 of their day asleep, while the average adult spends 1/3. There is no set amount of sleep that an individual needs. Sleep patterns can be culturally influenced, but the average human left undisturbed will sleep at least 9 hours a night. Sleep commands roughly 1/3 of our lives – 25 years… Sound sleep has been found to strengthen memory, concentration, mood, and the immune system – it moderates hunger, obesity, and the risk of fatal accidents – people who sleep 7 to 8 hours a night tend to outlive those who are chronically sleep deprived. Today’s teenagers average less than 7 hours of sleep per night – how does this affect you?

8 Sleep Deprivation: Sleep deprived college students have difficulty studying, diminished productivity, tendency to make mistakes, irritability, fatigue, and at a greater risk for accidents. Accidents during time change. Numerous deprivation experiments reveal increased errors on visual tasks – driver fatigue accounts for over 20% of American auto accidents. It also mimics aging and is conductive to obesity and hypertension. Sleep Deprivation Quiz pg. 282 The need for sleep can entail protection, recuperation, remembering, and/or growth – while there is no one reason why we need to sleep, the need is always there…

9 Sleep Disorders: Many individuals are plagued by sleep disorders – some are minor, but some serve as major problems that demand attention. “Insomnia”: persistent problems in falling or staying asleep affects 10-15% of adults (this is a chronic condition, not a just a few days). Quick fixes to the problem (sleeping pills, alcohol, etc.) can aggravate the problem. “Narcolepsy”: uncontrollable sleep attacks (fall directly into REM sleep with no warning) – 1 in 2000 experience – this disorder can lead to embarrassment and/or injury. Narcolepsy is a brain disease due to a lack of the neurotransmitter “hypocretin”.

10 “Sleep Apnea”: temporary cessations of breathing during sleep and repeated momentary awakenings – 1 in 20 suffer from it. These frequent awakenings inhibit deep sleep – it can lead to sleepiness, irritability, and snoring. “Night terrors”: terrifying state of walking/talking usually affecting children – kids seldom wake up fully during an episode and recall little or nothing the next morning. *Night terrors are not nightmares (they usually occur during the first few hours of Stage 4). As we grow older, stage 4 sleep decreases (thus night terrors tend to decrease with age).

11 Ways to get to sleep: Relax (dim lights, light music, etc.). Avoid caffeine. Sleep on a regular schedule (this will boost daytime alertness as well). Exercise regularly (but not in the evening). Don’t worry about it! (anxiety can keep you up even later).

12 Dreams: “Dreams”: a sequence of images, emotions, and thoughts passing through a sleeping person’s mind (“hallucinations of the sleeping mind”). Unlike daydreams, they often involve bizarre incongruities of daily life. Sometimes dreams are “lucid”: we may be sufficiently aware that we are in fact dreaming. 8 in 10 dreams are marked by negative emotions – people commonly dream of falling, being attacked, and being chased. The story line of our dreams (“manifest content”) sometimes incorporates traces of the previous days’ experiences and preoccupations.

13 Why do we Dream? The explanations for dreams vary: Freud believed that our dreams enable us to act out otherwise socially undesirable behaviors (wish-fulfillment). Some believe dreams allow information processing – a way to help sort and fix our day’s experiences into memory. Some believe dreams fulfill a physiological function – dreams help develop and preserve neural connections. Some believe dreams result from activation synthesis – uncontrollable neural messages that the brain tries to make sense of. Some believe dreams reflect cognitive development – dreams are a normal sign of brain maturation and development. There is no one answer to the question of why dreams occur – we must just accept the fact that they do.

14 Hypnosis: Those who study hypnosis agree that its power resides not in the hypnotist but in the subject’s openness to suggestion – those who are highly hypnotizable frequently become deeply absorbed in imaginative activities. May researchers refer to hypnotic “susceptibility” as “hypnotic ability”: the ability to focus attention totally on a task, to become imaginatively absorbed in it, to entertain fanciful possibilities.

15 What Can(‘t) Hypnosis Do: Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis cannot make us recall forgotten events – events that are remembered are often recalled differently than they actually occurred. There is some belief that hypnosis can be used to make someone perform an apparently dangerous act (acid example). However, many of the same results have been shown to occur with any authoritative person in charge. Millgrim Experiment Hypnotherapists do nothing magical, they simply try to help patients harness their own healing powers. “Posthypnotic suggestion” have helped alleviate headaches, asthma, and stress-related skin disorders. It has also been found to help obesity, but lags in the treatment of smoking, drug, and alcohol addictions.

16 “Dissociation”: a split in consciousness that allows some thoughts and behaviors to occur simultaneously with others allows hypnosis to alleviate (ignore pain) – others attribute this phenomenon to “selective attention” (injured athletes in games) – hypnosis seems to block attention to pain. Ice Baths and Major Surgery Whatever the effect of hypnosis, the key is to remember that there is an effect – many times it revolves around an individual’s openness to suggestion and their overall attention (or lack of attention) to the hypnosis itself.

17 Drugs and Consciousness: “Psychoactive drugs” are chemicals that change perceptions and moods – usage of such drugs produces “tolerance”: a diminishing effect with regular use of the same drug (requiring higher doses for the same effect). Users who stop taking these drugs may experience symptoms of “withdrawal” (anything from cravings to pain). Many psychoactive drugs can lead to both “physical” and “psychological dependence” otherwise known as “addiction”. There are at least 3 major categories of psychoactive drugs, all of which do their work at synapses (stimulating, inhibiting, or mimicking the activity of neurotransmitters).

18 1. “Depressants”: A. Alcohol: slows brain activity that control judgment and inhibitions. In small doses it can be relaxing, -- in large doses it slows reactions, slurs speech, and deteriorates skilled performance. It also disrupts the processing of recent and long-term memories (REM sleep). Girls become addicted more quickly. B. Barbiturates: these tranquilizers mimic the effects of alcohol – they are often prescribed to induce sleep or reduce anxiety – in combination with alcohol, slowing body functions can be lethal. C. Opiates: Opium and its derivates (morphine and heroin) give a few hours of bliss, but leave the user with uncontrollable cravings, need for increased dosages, and week-long physical withdrawal.

19 2. “Stimulants”: These drugs temporarily excite neural activity and arouse body functions – people use these substances to stay awake, lose weight, or boost mood. The most widely used “amphetamines” are caffeine and nicotine, but this group also includes the highly addictive/dangerous cocaine and “methamphetamine”. All stimulants increase heart and breathing rates and diminish appetite. They are often very addictive (including caffeine and nicotine) and can lead to crashes if not taken.

20 A. Cocaine: results in a rush of euphoria followed by a crash of agitated depression as the drug wears off. Many users become addicted – effects include emotional disturbances, convulsions, and cardiac arrest. B. Ecstasy: both a stimulant and mild hallucinogen – releases serotonin and blocks reabsorption causing euphoria. Usually lasts 3-4 hours – causes dehydration, overheating, increased blood pressure, damage to serotonin-producing neurons (permanent depression), and death.

21 3. “Hallucinogens”: These drugs distort perceptions and evoke sensory images in the absence of sensory input (“psychedelics”). A. LSD: effects vary from extreme euphoria to paranoia – during “trips”, people often feel separated from their bodies and experience dreamlike scenes as though they were real (so real they often harm themselves). B. Marijuana: the main ingredient “THC” causes both depressant and hallucinogenic effects. It is known to impair motor coordination, perceptual skills, and reaction time. It has also been known to alleviate pain and can be prescribed in certain states as medicine. THC lingers in the body for a month or more.

22 Influences on Drug Use: Drug use varies throughout time – it was extremely high in the 70s and 90s, but has begun to decrease lately. There are several explanations on why people use drugs: Biological – some people are predisposed to use and addiction. Psychological – some people use to “solve a problem”. Socio-cultural – some places do not discourage drug use as much as others (including peers).

23 Prevention and Treatment: Drug programs focus on 3 major areas: 1. Education on the long-term costs / effects of drug use. 2. Efforts to boost people’s self-esteem and purpose in life. 3. Attempts to modify peer associations or inoculate youth from peer pressure.


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