Chapter7NarrativeSummary - CHAPTER 7(SUMMARY STATES OF...

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CHAPTER 7 (SUMMARY): STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS Overview Consciousness is our awareness of ourselves and our environment. Conscious information processing enables us to exercise control and to communicate our mental states to others. Beneath the surface, subconscious processing occurs simultaneously on many parallel tracks. Virtually everyone daydreams, especially fantasy-prone individuals. Like dreams at night, daydreaming can be adaptive; it can help prepare us for future events and may substitute for impulsive behavior. Our daily schedule of waking and sleeping is governed by a biological clock known as circadian rhythm. Our sleep also follows a repeating cycle. Awakening people during REM sleep yields predictable “dreamlike” reports that are mostly of ordinary events. Freud’s view that dreams can be traced back to erotic wishes is giving way to newer theories, for example, that dreams help us process information and fix it in memory or that dreams erupt from neural activity. Studies of hypnosis indicate that, although hypnotic procedures may facilitate recall, the hypnotist’s beliefs frequently work their way into subjects’ recollections. Hypnosis can be at least temporarily therapeutic and has the potential of bringing significant pain relief. Hypnosis may be both an extension of normal principles of social influence and of everyday splits in consciousness. Psychoactive drugs also alter consciousness. Depressants act by depressing neural functioning. Although their effects are pleasurable, they impair memory and self-awareness and may have other physical consequences. Stimulants act at the synapses by influencing the brain’s neurotransmitters. Their effects depend on dosage and the user’s personality and expectations. Hallucinogens can distort judgment of time and can alter sensations and perceptions. About one-third of those who survive a brush with death later recall visionary experiences. Some scientists point out that such near-death experiences closely parallel reports of hallucinations. Waking Consciousness The nature of consciousness and its significance in the history of psychology. Psychology began as the study of consciousness. But the difficulty of scientifically studying consciousness led many psychologists to turn to direct observations of behavior and by the middle of the twentieth century, psychology was defined as the science of behavior. By 1960, mental concepts began to reenter psychology, and today, investigating states of mind is again one of psychology’s pursuits. Advances in neuroscience made it possible to relate brain activity to various mental states—waking, sleeping, dreaming. Conscious versus subconscious information processing Conscious information processing enables us to exert voluntary control and to communicate our mental states to others. It takes place in sequence, is relatively slow, and has limited capacity.
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