Psychology – Mr. Duez                                  LEARNING TARGETS                                    Unit 3 - Consciousness


If you learn only 3 things from this chapter:

1. People dream during REM sleep.

2. Sleep isn't easy for everyone. There are a variety of sleep disorders that are important to understand.

3. The Stages of Sleep.

Key Ideas:

While you are reading this, you may find yourself daydreaming as irrelevant thoughts surface, images of other situations come into view, and you create inner, private realities unconnected to this topic. (But, hopefully not a lot!) Daydreams provide stimulation when your interest is flagging and let  you experience positive emotions. Although I hope not, you may even doze off. If so, you are experiencing different states of consciousness.

In the late 1800s, early structuralists like Wilhelm Wundt, followed by Edward Tichener, examined consciousness in order to learn about the structure of the mind, and functionalists like William James considered consciousness as essential for adapting to the environment. During the first half of the 1900s, behaviorists discounted and ignored consciousness. During the first half of the 1900s, behavioralists discounted and ignored consciousness. By the 1950s, cognitive psychologists returned to the examination of consciousness, especially the phenomenon of attention. Attention is a state of focused awareness. What you pay attention to is what you process into perceptions, thoughts, and experiences.

Consciousness is your awareness of the outside world and yourself, including your own mental processes, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Your consciousness is selective, subjective and unique to you, always changing, and central to your sense of self.

Wundt (how it was organized) and James (how it worked) were fascinated with consciousness from the very earliest writings in psychology. Consciousness refers to the active processing of information in the brain. It could be thought of as a form of short-term memory & attention combined. It is the activity running through our heads or minds. Brain activity can be measured by using an EEG.

Although your current level of consciousness is basically limited to what is relevant to you  and what you notice, other events can either become conscious or influence your conscious experience. Your preconscious is the level of consciousness that is outside of awareness but contains feelings and memories that you can easily bring into conscious awareness. For example, if asked what you ate for dinner last night, you could easily remember and tell.

Your nonconscious is the level of consciousness devoted to process completely inaccessible to conscious awareness, such as blood flow, filtering of blood by kidneys, secretion of hormones, and lower level processing of sensations, such as detecting edges, estimating size and distance of objects, recognizing patterns, etc.

For psychoanalysts, also known as psychodynamic psychologists, the unconscious, sometimes called the subconscious, is the level of consciousness that processes information of which ]you are unaware. The unconscious operates whenever you feel or act without being aware of what’s influencing you, whether it’s a stimulus from the current situation or from your past. Don’t confuse the unconscious and unconsciousness. Unconsciousness is characterized by loss of responsiveness to the environment resulting from disease, trauma, or anesthesia. Consciousness enables you to analyze, compare, and interpret experiences, and allows you to integrate what you already know, what you perceive in the present, and what you anticipate. Consciousness can be altered by sleep, hypnosis, meditation, and drugs.

Studying consciousness is very difficult because we don't have a good definition of it and can't really see or measure it. Techniques have been developed to serve as a proxy for consciousness. One of the easiest ways to study consciousness is to examine the process of sleep.

We are not entirely sure why sleep occurs. There is a mechanism that causes us to fall asleep in the brain (2 really). And we believe it has an evolutionary purpose as well. Yet the body does not do as much recuperation during sleep as we might believe, and the brain is active during sleep, so we are not really decreasing activity.

Why do we sleep? Evolutionary psychologists say that humans evolved a unique waking-sleeping cycle as a result of natural selection that maximized our chances of survival. Sleep serves at least two restorative functions--one involved in protein synthesis throughout the body, the other involved in maintaining plasticity of neural connections essential for storing and retrieving memories, which enables you to put together new material from the day before with old material. This is sometimes called consolidation. Sleep deprivation makes you drowsy, unable to concentrate, and impairs your memory and immune system. Sleep time seems to decrease from about 16 to 18 hours for a newborn, to about 7 to 8 hours for an adult.

Biological Rhythms and Sleep

Your finely tuned “biological clock,” controlled by the hypothalamus, systematically regulates changes in your body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar levels, hormonal levels, and activity levels over the course of about a day. In an environment devoid of environmental cues to the length of the day, your freerunning biological clock cycles approximately every 25 hours, but in a typical environment with light during the day and dark at night, cycles of changes, circadian rhythms, recur approximately every 24 hours. The forebrain, reticular formation, and thalamus are involved in the changes in wakefulness, arousal, and attention. Your physiological fluctuations are reflected in changes in your energy level, mood, performance, wakefulness, and sleep. Jet lag and night-shift work involve disruptions of circadian rhythms.

Circadian 24 hour biological processes that may be interrupted by exposure to light (resets biological clock by affecting suprachiasmatic nucleus and pineal gland which secretes melatonin).

Jet lag & shift work can also knock circadian rhythms out of sync.

SLEEP STAGES - In normal night's sleep each cycle 1-4 & Rem lasts about 90 minutes (as night progresses we spend more time in REM cycle). 4 to 6 cycles per night is typical.

Relaxed - Wakefulness (and hypnagogic state) - Alpha Waves

Stage 1 - Brain waves similar to when someone is awake, lots of activity. Barely asleep; can be awakened easily. Theta waves

Stage 2 - Brain waves slow down dramatically. Deeper stage of sleep. Sleep spindles (bursts of neural activity or neural firings) occur. Not easy to wake up.

Stage 3 - 1st slow wave of sleep. Brain activity and waves are slow. Person sleeps much more deeply and very difficult to wake. Some delta waves

Stage 4 - Deepest stage of sleep. Brain waves are the slowest. If a person tried to shut off an alarm that woke him, he would still remain very groggy. Mostly delta waves

REM Sleep (or Paradoxical Sleep) - Rapid Eye Movement - vivid dreams occur most often here. Brain waves work almost as fast as they do when we are awake. But the brain causes a decrease in muscle tone and control. Impossible to sleepwalk in this stage (the body is immobile). [REM cycles decline during childhood and levels off at 20%] Similar waves to relaxed wakefulness

Remember: Delta and deep. Deep waves on the beach are high, so they have a high amplitude. Stages 3 and 4 are the highest numbers for sleep stages.

Electroencephalograms (EEGs) can be recorded with electrodes on the surface of the skull. EEGs have revealed that brain waves change in form systematically throughout the sleep cycle.

Activation-synthesis hypothesis - When we dream, our brain is as active as while we are awake: we experience images, sensations, etc. that we synthesize into a dream.

Content of one's dreams may be affected by one's gender, events in one's life, & external stimuli experienced during the dream. There are variations across cultures in dream recall, content, and interpretation.

Freud argued that the purpose of dreams was wish fulfillment. He thought dreams were “the royal road to the unconscious.” Freud argued it was a safety valve for unconscious desires, that reveal secrets of the unconscious part of the mind unknown to the conscious mind. Freud tried to analyze dreams to uncover the desires (many of them sexual) and fears disguised in dreams. He considered the remembered story line of a dream to be its manifest content, and the underlying meaning its latent content.

Cartwright has articulated a problem-solving view, whereas Hobson & McCarley assert that dreams are side effects of the neural activation seen during REM sleep. During a dream the pons generates bursts of action potentials to the forebrain, which is activation. The dreamer  then tries to make sense of the stimulation by creating a storyline which is synthesis. Hobson & McCarley called this the Activation-Synthesis Theory.

A cognitive view holds that when we sleep, information from the external world is largely cut off. So the only world our constantly active brain can model is the one already inside it from stored memories, recent concerns, current emotions, and expectations, which can be activated by electrical impulses discharged from within the brain. In other words, dreams are the interplay of the physiological triggering of brain waves and the psychological functioning of the imaginative, interpretive parts of the mind. Recent studies indicate correspondences between what you do in the dream state and what happens to  your physical body and brain. Thus if you dream you’re doing something, to your brain, it’s as if you’re actually doing it.

Sleep Disorders

Nightmares are frightening dreams that occur during REM sleep. most of your dreaming takes place in REM sleep. Dreams remembered from other stages are less elaborate and emotional. Training in lucid dreaming, the ability to be aware of and direct one’s dreams, has been used to help people make recurrent nightmares seem less frightening.

Attention - how we focus our mental energy on any one of a number of possible stimuli.

Attention is crucial to understanding behavior and consciousness. When we are conscious, it is our attention that determines what is part of our short-term memory.

Selective attention - Cherry & Morray (researchers) utilized dichotic listening to examine the issue. Dichotic listening - involves wearing headphones & having 2 different messages coming into your ears. Your task is to listen to one ear while ignoring the other. We can ignore information in the unattended ear, but some information does get into the unattended channel.

  Cocktail Party Phenomenon (Morray) - You may focus on one task but someone says something that is highly salient to you - things like names, the word fire if you are in a movie theatre, etc. We can pay attention to more than one thing at a time. But we can be distracted by info that seems important.

  Divided Attention - We can only focus on one complex topic at one time.

Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness characterized by deep relaxation and heightened suggestibility. Under hypnosis, subjects can change aspects of reality and let those changes influence their behavior. Hypnotized individuals may feel as if their bodies are floating, or sinking; see, feel, hear, smell, or taste things that are not there; lose sense of touch or pain; be made to feel like they are passing back in time; act as if they are out of their own control; and respond to suggestions by others.

For some people, this make-believe may be so vivid and intense that they have trouble differentiating it from reality. Subjects can actually think immersing a hand in ice water is comfortable! Many psychologists think hypnosis involves highly focused awareness and intensified imagination. Others propose social cognitive theories that hypnosis is a social phenomenon in which highly motivated subjects enter a hypnotized “role.” Still others believe that hypnosis involves a division or dissociation of consciousness. According to the dissociation theory, hypnotized individuals experience two or more streams of consciousness cut off from each other.

Altering Consciousness with Drugs

Psychoactive drugs - exert their main effects in the brain, where they alter neurotransmitter activity in a variety of ways. The meso-limbic dopamine pathway may mediate the reinforcing effects of most abused drugs.

Do you drink coffee, tea, cocoa, or cola in the morning to get you going? A lot of people do. These beverages contain a psychoactive drug called caffeine. Psychoactive drugs are chemicals that can pass through the blood-brain barrier into the brain to alter perception, thinking, behavior, and mood, producing a wide range of effects from mild relaxation or increased alertness to vivid hallucinations. The effect a person expects from a drug partly determines the effect of the drug on that person. That person may experience different effects, depending on his/her mood and social situation. Psychoactive drugs stimulate or inhibit different regions of the brain by interacting with neurotransmitter systems.

Psychological dependence develops when the person has an intense desire to achieve the drugged state in spite of adverse effects. If a person uses a drug repeatedly, the intensity of effects produced by the same dose may decrease, causing the person to take larger doses. This decreasing responsivity to a drug is called tolerance. Tolerance for drugs partly depends on environmental stimuli associated with taking of the drug.

Physiological dependence or addiction develops when changes in brain chemistry from taking the drug necessitate taking the drug again to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Typically, withdrawal symptoms include intense craving for the drug and effects opposite to those the drug usually induces. Although hundreds of psychoactive drugs differ in their chemical composition, drugs can be classified into broad categories. One classification system categorizes drugs by their main effects: depressants, narcotics, stimulants, and hallucinogens.

Four categories of psychoactive drugs: [**Also see the chart below**]

1. Depressants - reduce activity of CNS and induce sleep.

2. Narcotics - depress the CNS, relieve pain, induce feelings of euphoria.

3. Stimulants - activate motivational centers; reduce activity in the inhibitory centers of the CNS.

4. Hallucinogens - distort perceptions and evoke sensory images in the absence of sensory input.


Questions to consider:

1. Which stage of sleep is also referred to as paradoxical sleep?

(stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, REM)

2. Difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep is called?

(Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, Insomnia, Cataplexy, Dichotic Listening)

3. Dave has trouble staying asleep because several times during the night, he stops breathing and wakes up for a short time. Dave likely suffers from ____?

(Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, Insomnia, Cataplexy, Dichotic Listening)

4. Which of the following is the deepest stage of sleep?

(stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, REM)

5. During a typical night, each cycle of sleep lasts ____ hours?

(8, 1, 4, 90 minutes, 30 minutes)

6. Little Tommy is having trouble sleeping. When he first falls asleep, he goes right out. Almost immediately, however, he wakes up screaming and crying uncontrollably, and his heart is racing. Tommy is probably suffering from ____.

(enuresis, nightmares, cataplexy, night terrors, sleep apnea)

7. During a typical night's sleep we go through all the cycles of sleep _____ times.

(once, twice, 2-3 times, 4-6 times, 5-9 times)

8. Lilly is having trouble staying awake during the day. Several times a day, she is overcome with excessive sleepiness---so much so, it is impossible for her not to fall asleep. Lilly probably suffers from ____.

(enuresis, nightmares, cataplexy, night terrors, narcolepsy)

9. A truly automatic task uses almost no _____ resources.

(uses up most of our available attention, allows us to do only one task at a time, is beyond the control of the person)

10. REM sleep is called paradoxical sleep because our ____ are active even as our _____ are relaxed.

(our brains are active even as our muscles are relaxed, sometimes we wake up from sleep feeling more tired than before, our blood pressure and body temperature are lowest when we wake up, our brains shut down and relax even though we are actively dreaming, our muscle tone increases during dreams as our brain activity decreases)

11. Abby is having a dream. She is probably in which stage of sleep?

(stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, REM)

12. Another term for sleepwalking is __?

(cataplexy, enuresis, somnambulism, narcolepsy, nightmares)

13. An automatic task

(requires a great deal of practice to develop, requires almost no attention to develop, requires one to be asleep)

14. Tina is walking down the street. All of the sudden, she loses her muscle control and falls to the ground. Tina most likely suffers from ___?

(cataplexy, night terrors, somnambulism, narcolepsy, nightmares)

15. "At one time in our history it was more dangerous for our ancestors to be active at night, so sleeping at night became and advantage for their survival." Which theoretical approach would be MOST supportive of this quote?

(Psychoanalytic, Evolutionary, Cognitive, Behavioral, Biological)

16. The average adult requires ____ hours of sleep a night.

(8, 6, 10, 4, 12)

17. Which of these is LEAST likely to happen during REM sleep compared to the other stages of sleep?

(dreaming, sleep apnea, increased brain activity, Somnambulism, Insomnia)

18. During the night our body temp ____.

(drops, increases, stays the same, drops... then increases, varies dramatically by time of year)

19. Tom is having trouble sleeping. When he first falls asleep, he goes right to sleep. However, when he wakes up in the morning, he still feels tired. He can't figure out why this is happening. Tom is probably suffering from _____?

(enuresis, nightmares, cataplexy, night terrors, sleep apnea)

20. The idea that a person cannot ignore listening to an important piece of information, even though she is paying attention to something else, is called the

(REM sleep effect, cocktail party effect, narcoleptic effect)