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CHAPTER 7 – CONSCIOUSNESS

I – WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS?

Consciousness: Our awareness of ourselves and our environment; enables voluntary


control and communication of mental states to others.

Levels of Information Processing: Serial processing of consciously attended to


information (executive function) while parallel processing of subconscious information
(e.g., routine tasks).

Daydreams and Fantasies: Everyone, anytime, anywhere; men have more sexual fantasies
than women (and these are normal and healthy); relieve boredom, escape and adaptive -
prepare for future events, increase creativity, further cognitive and social development in
children; reduce impulsivity (delinquents, violent and drug users have fewer vivid
fantasies).

II – SLEEP and DREAMS

Biological rhythms: Periodic physiological fluctuations; include annual cycles (SADS),


28-day cycles (menstrual), 24-hour (alertness, body temperature, and growth hormone
secretion), 90-minute cycles (sleep stages).

PMS? May be based on our tendency to notice and remember instances that confirm our
beliefs and not to notice and remember disconfirming instances; day-to-day self-reports
reveal little emotional fluctuation across the menstrual cycle (though “perceived” mood
may be worse premenstrually); culturally variability; placebos work.

The Rhythm of Sleep:

Circadian rhythms: the biological clock; regular bodily rhythms (e.g.,


temperature, wakefulness) that occur on a 24-hour cycle; Light influences
circadian rhythm by activating light-sensitive retinal proteins, triggering signals to
a brain region that controls the circadian clock (a center in the hypothalamus
called the suprachiasmatic nucleus) to alter the production of biologically active
substances, such as sleep-inducing melatonin (less melatonin released in AM and
more released in PM). Artificial light delays sleep (pushes to 25-hour rhythm);
morning and evening types; older people more likely to be AM and teens/young
adults to be PM.

Sleep: Periodic, natural, reversible loss of consciousness—as distinct from


unconsciousness resulting from a coma, general anesthesia, or hibernation

Sleep Stages:

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A biological rhythm during sleep; about every 90 or 100 minutes we pass through
a cycle of five distinct sleep stages based on brain-wave activity, eye movements,
and muscle tension by electrodes that pick up weak electrical signals from the
brain, eye, and facial muscles.

Awake, relaxed: Alpha wave activity.

Stage 1: Waves become more irregular, slower; lasts up to 5 minutes;


hallucinations - sensory experiences without sensory stimuli; sense of falling
(body jerks) or floating (“hypnogogic” sensations).

Stage 2: Periodic appearance of sleep spindles—bursts of rapid, rhythmic brain-


wave activity; about 20 minutes; sleep talking here or during any other stage of
sleep.

Stage 3: Transitional stage; beginning of large, slow Delta waves (slow-wave


sleep); lasts a few minutes

Stage 4: Deep sleep; last about 30 minutes: bed-wetting, sleep-walking; difficult


to awaken, but still processing (hear name, baby cry).

Then, in about 1 hour, return through stages 3 and 2 to:

REM sleep: Rapid eye movement sleep, dream time; paradoxical sleep, because
muscles are relaxed (except for minor twitches) but other body systems are active
(heart rate rises, breathing becomes rapid and irregular; eyes dart around behind
closed lids); internally aroused but externally calm; REM time increases
throughout the night – longest just before waking; genital arousal (regardless of
dream content); difficult to awaken; DREAM time – vivid, storylike.

Why Sleep?

Unhindered – 9 hours/night; US decrease from 7.6 (1942) to 6.7 (2001)


Babies>children and teens (8-9 hours)>adult>elderly; individual variability in
need for sleep; 80% of teens are sleep-deprived; 20% of US traffic accidents
attributed to sleeping at the wheel.

Sleep Deprivation:
Sleepiness and general malaise (bad feeling); vulnerable to accidents; depressed
immune system; altered metabolic and hormonal functioning in ways that mimic
aging and are conducive to obesity, hypertension, and memory impairment;
shorter life; irritability, slowed performance, and impaired creativity,
concentration, and communication.

Sleep Functions:

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Protection: In early human evolution sleep put us out of harm’s way. Animals
with the most need to graze and the least ability to hide tend to sleep less
(elephants and horses sleep 3 to 4 hours a day, bats and chipmunks sleep 20
hours).
Restoration: Body tissues, especially those of the brain (decreased adenosine
production during sleep; pruning and consolidation).
Growth: Pituitary releases growth hormone.

Sleep Disorders

Insomnia: Recurring problems in falling or staying asleep. Sleeping pills and


alcohol reduce REM time; insomniacs tend to “fret” over sleep – underestimate
time slept and overestimate time to get to sleep (10-15%).
Narcolepsy: Uncontrollable sleep attacks (lasts 5 minutes); may lapse directly into
REM sleep, often at inopportune times (interacting with others); absence of a
hypothalamic neurocenter that produces the neurotransmitter hypocretin. (1 in
2000 are afflicted).
Sleep apnea: Temporary cessations of breathing during sleep and consequent
momentary awakenings. (1 in 20, mostly overweight males); episodes are not
remembered because anything that happens 5 minutes before falling asleep is
typically forgotten.
Night terrors: High arousal and an appearance of being terrified; unlike
nightmares, night terrors occur during Stage 4 sleep, within 2 or 3 hours of falling
asleep, and are seldom remembered. Like sleep walking and sleep talking, occurs
during Stage 4; night terrors decrease with age.

Dreams

Dream: A sequence of images, emotions, and thoughts passing through a sleeping


person’s mind; notable for their hallucinatory imagery, discontinuities, and
incongruities, and for the dreamer’s delusional acceptance of the content and later
difficulties remembering it.
Lucid Dream: Vivid and aware that we are dreaming; test state of consciousness
(if I can float, I am dreaming).
Content: 8 in 10 dreams are marked by negative emotions (failing in an attempt to
do something; being attacked, pursued, or rejected; or of experiencing
misfortune); 1 in 10 dreams among young men and 1 in 30 among young women
have sexual overtones; more commonly, we dream of events in our daily lives, a
meeting at work, taking an exam, relating to a family member or friend.
Manifest content: According to Freud, the remembered story line of a dream (as
distinct from its latent content); often about the day’s experiences; external
sensory stimuli may be incorporated into dream (phone ringing, smell).

Why Dream?

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Wish fulfillment/Inner conflict (Freud): Latent content: The underlying symbolic
meaning of a dream; a safety valve for unacceptable feelings;
Criticism: Dreams are open to multiple interpretations.
Information Processing: Dreams may help up to sift, sort, and fix the day’s
experiences in memory; REM sleep facilitates memory; same areas active in sleep
as when trying to remember; high school students with high grades (A and B
averages) average 25 minutes more sleep a night and go to bed 40 minutes earlier
than their C, D, and F classmates.
Physiological function: Brain stimulation; infants have most REM time.
Activation-synthesis: Neural activity is random, dreams are attempt to make sense
of unrelated visual bursts, given their emotional tone by the limbic system; the
brain’s interpretation of its own activity; visual processing areas are active (but
not visual cortex) as is limbic system, but not frontal lobes (rational thought).
REM rebound: The tendency for REM sleep to increase following REM sleep
deprivation.
Other animals: Exhibit REM sleep suggesting the causes and functions are deeply
biological. But REM only in animals where higher learning is important
(monkeys vs. fish), supporting the information-processing theory of dreams.

III – HYPNOSIS

Hypnosis: A social interaction in which one person (the hypnotist) suggests to another
(the subject) that certain perceptions, feelings, thoughts, or behaviors will spontaneously
occur (mesmerism).

Posthypnotic amnesia: Supposed inability to recall what one experienced during


hypnosis; induced by the hypnotist’s suggestion.

Facts and Falsehoods:

Can anyone be hypnotized? Yes, but some more easily than others, and a stable
characteristics; those who become deeply absorbed in imaginary events; ability to
focus inward is all that’s required.

Can hypnosis enhance recall of forgotten events? No evidence to support age


regression (accurate recall early childhood experiences under hypnosis) (during
regression they outperform children); “hypnotically refreshed memories” combine
fact and fiction – banned in US courts; may contaminate memory with false
memories and increase confidence in false memories; increase vulnerability to
false memory suggestions when under hypnosis.

Can hypnosis force people to act against their will? No evidence to support this;
nonhypnotized=hypnotized.

Can hypnosis be therapeutic?

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Posthypnotic suggestion: A suggestion made during a hypnosis session to be
carried out after the subject is no longer hypnotized; used by some clinicians to
help control undesired symptoms and behaviors.
Have helped to alleviate headaches, asthma, warts, and stress-related skin
disorders; benefits greater for obesity than smoking and other addictions; benefits
no greater for more than for less hypnotically susceptible people.
But are benefits due merely to relaxation and positive images and expectations?

Can hypnosis reduce pain? YES.


Dissociation: A split in consciousness, which allows some thoughts and
behaviors to occur simultaneously with others. Hypnosis dissociates the sensation
of the pain stimulus (of which the subject is still aware) from the emotional
suffering that defines the experience of pain.
Selective attention: Hypnosis no better than relaxing or distracting people from
their pain; hypnosis reduces brain activity in a region involved in attending to
painful stimuli, but not in the somatosensory cortex that receives the raw sensory
input.
Disparities between self-reports and behavior (including physiological measures).

Is hypnosis a unique psychological state?


Hypnosis as a social phenomena: Not unique and behaviors can be
produced w/o hypnosis; willingness to accept the suggestions of the hypnotist;
more liking and trust, more hypnotic behavior; caught up in role of behaving as
expected of them; a social influence phenomena.
Hypnosis as divided consciousness: Separation of behavior from conscious
control; more than just being “good subjects;” distinctive brain activity and some
behaviors may be unique to hypnosis (pain reduction and compelling
hallucinations); because many everyday activities are done on “auto pilot” there is
nothing unique about hypnosis – normal dissociation between cognition and
behavior. But a hidden observer is passively aware of what’s happening; no
doubt that we process some information nonconsciously.

Unified account of hypnosis: An extension both of normal principles of social


influence and of everyday dissociations between conscious awareness and our
automatic behaviors.

IV – DRUGS AND CONSCIOUSNESS

Psychoactive drugs: a chemical substance that alters perceptions and mood.

Dependence and addiction


Tolerance: The diminishing effect with regular use of the same dose of a drug,
requiring the user to take larger and larger doses before experiencing the drug’s
effect. (neuroadaptation: The brain’s counteracting the disruption to its normal
functioning).

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Withdrawal: The discomfort and distress that follow discontinuing the use of an
addictive drug.
Physical dependence: A physiological need for a drug, marked by unpleasant
withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued.
Psychological dependence: A psychological need to use a drug, such as to relieve
negative emotions.

Misconceptions About Addiction


Addiction: A craving for a substance, with physical symptoms such as aches,
nausea, and distress following sudden withdrawal.
Myth #1: Addictive drugs quickly corrupt; for example, morphine taken to control
pain is powerfully addictive and often leads to heroin abuse.
Myth #2: Addictions can’t be overcome voluntarily; therapy is a must.
Myth #3: We can extend the concept of addiction to cover not just drug
dependencies, but a whole spectrum of repetitive, pleasure-seeking behaviors.

Psychoactive Drugs:
Depressants: Drugs (such as alcohol, barbiturates, and opiates) that reduce neural
activity and slow body functions.
Stimulants: Drugs (such as caffeine, nicotine, and the more powerful
amphetamines and cocaine) that excite neural activity and speed up body
functions.
Hallucinogens: Psychedelic (“mind-manifesting”) drugs, such as LSD, that distort
perceptions and evoke sensory images in the absence of sensory input.

Depressants
Alcohol: Slows brain activity involved in judgment and inhibitions; exaggerates
normal tendencies (helpful and harmful); lowers inhibitions, slows speech,
impairs motor performance, impairs memory (by disrupting process that
transforms recent experiences into long-term memory (blackouts)); suppresses
REM sleep; long-terms use shrinks brain (especially in women who have less of
the stomach enzyme needed to metabolize alcohol); decreases self-awareness
(forget failures); focuses on immediate and away from the future (sex w/o
protection); beliefs/expectations also important
Barbiturates (tranquilizers): Drugs that depress the activity of the central nervous
system, reducing anxiety but impairing memory and judgment; mimic the effects
of alcohol; Nembutal and Seconal prescribed to induce sleep or reduce anxiety;
impair memory and judgment; lethal in high doses or in combination with
alcohol.
Opiates: Opium and its derivatives, such as morphine and heroin; they depress
neural activity, temporarily lessening pain and anxiety; pupils constrict, breathing
slows, become lethargic; withdrawal; death by overdose.

Stimulants
Coffee, nicotine, amphetamines: Stimulate neural activity, causing speeded-up
body functions and associated energy and mood changes; increase heart and

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breathing rates, pupils dilate, appetite diminishes (because blood sugar increases),
energy and self-confidence rise; addictive; withdrawal included fatigue and
depression.
Cocaine: (Crack: a potent form of cocaine): Euphoria to addiction is quick;
extracted cocaine is sniffed (“snorted”), injected or smoked (“free-based”); enters
the bloodstream quickly - a “rush” of euphoria that lasts 15 to 30 minutes;
depletes brain’s supply of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and
norepinephrine - a crash of agitated depression occurs as the drug’s effect wears
off; users may experience emotional disturbance, suspiciousness, convulsions,
cardiac arrest, or respiratory failure; greater aggressiveness; psychological effects
depend not only on the dosage and form but also on expectations, personality, and
the situation.
Ecstacy (MDMA): A synthetic stimulant and mild hallucinogen; produces
euphoria and social intimacy (from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours), but with short-term
health risks (dehydration, overheating, blood pressure increase, and death) and
longer-term harm to serotonin-producing neurons and to mood and cognition
(depression; sleep disruption, immune system, memory and other cognitive
functions); acts by triggering the release of dopamine (stimulant) but major effect
is to release serotonin and block its reabsorption, thus prolonging serotonin’s feel-
good flood.

Hallucinogens
LSD: A powerful hallucinogenic drug; also known as acid (lysergic acid
diethylamide); emotions vary from euphoria to detachment to panic; users current
mood and expectations influence experience, but perceptual distortions and
hallucinations have commonalities - begins with simple geometric forms (lattice,
cobweb, spiral), then more meaningful images, at peak, may feel separated from
their bodies and experience dreamlike scenes as though they were real (may panic
or harm themselves).
Marijuana: THC - the major active ingredient in marijuana; triggers a variety of
effects (relaxes, disinhibits, euphoria), including mild hallucinations by
amplifying sensitivity to colors, sounds, tastes, smells; depends on users state of
mind and the situation (can increase depression; reduce pain and nausea); smoke
is carcinogenic; impairs motor coordination, perceptual skills, and reaction time,
disrupts memory and immediate recall; THC-sensitive receptors in the brain’s
frontal lobes, limbic system, and motor cortex; lingers in body for months or more
(need less to get same high); Although marijuana is not as addictive as cocaine or
nicotine, changes brain chemistry, much as cocaine and heroin do, and it may
make the brain more susceptible to cocaine and heroin addiction.

All psychoactive drugs trigger negative after-effects; opposing emotions

Influences on Drug Use


Historically there have been Ups and Downs in attitudes and usage (since the
70s).

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Biological influences: Heritability; Identification of genes that produces
deficiencies in the dopamine reward system.
Psychological and Cultural influences: Feeling that one’s life is meaningless and
directionless; stress, failure, depression, anxiety, insomnia; AfAm lower than
whites; overestimate peer use; use mat stop when social network changes.

Drug prevention and treatment programs: (1) educate about the long-term costs
of a drug’s temporary pleasures, (2) boost self-esteem and purpose in life, and (3)
modify peer associations or “inoculate” youth against peer pressures by training
in “refusal skills.”

V – Near-death Experiences

Near-death experience: An altered state of consciousness reported after a close brush with
death (such as through cardiac arrest); often similar to drug-induced hallucinations Many
parallels with Ronald Siegel’s (1977) descriptions of the typical hallucinogenic (replay of
old memories, out-of-body sensations, and visions of tunnels or funnels and bright lights
or beings of light; floating).

Temporal lobe seizures (and stimulation) may also lead to reports of profound mystical
experiences, sometimes similar to those of near-death experiences.

Solitary Time,
Stage between Wake and Sleep
Oxygen Deprivation

Dualism: presumption that mind and body are two distinct entities that interact; near
death experience is evidence of immortality.
Monism: presumption that mind and body are different aspects of the same thing; near
death experience parallel hallucinations and is a product of a stressed brain.