The concept of consciousness in psychology
The concept of consciousness in psychology

Define consciousness in psychology

Awareness in psychology is the state of one’s awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations, which is the state of awareness of something external or something within the soul, and in order to experience consciousness, one must be awake and conscious, which is the state of awareness of something external or something within the soul, in At one time, consciousness was viewed with skepticism by many scientists, but in recent years it has become an important topic of research in psychology and neuroscience . Consciousness is embodied by the nervous system and gives us the ability to be aware, and have a range of feelings and beliefs about both the environment and ourselves. , According to the philosopher John Searle, consciousness is a biological phenomenon like any other phenomenon, such as digestion or cell division. Consciousness has several functions, and they include:

  • environmental awareness
  • Social communication, dealing with other people’s minds and understanding their thoughts
  • Playing a crucial role in controlling our actions
  • Allowing us to think about issues and events outside the present
  • Combine and aggregate different types of information to inform us of what is happening

Most importantly, consciousness is associated with psychological mechanisms that are currently receiving a level of attention, causing them to focus and activate, and in the absence of awareness, many of our psychological processes go unnoticed in the background.

Types and levels of consciousness

The degrees of consciousness can vary greatly, from none, during a coma, to a high degree when awake, and in order for an individual to experience conscious content he must have a non-zero level of consciousness. Scientists have distinguished between several different forms of consciousness, as follows:

  • Ned Block, a philosopher at New York University , suggests that access consciousness is what can be reported and used by other cognitive processes, such as perception and memory, while apparent consciousness remains private, raw, and inaccessible.
  • The alternative view distinguishes between low and high level of consciousness, describing the immense awareness of feelings and sensations belonging to the present and is essentially the way in which organisms with brains obtain information about the environment, while the higher level of consciousness, perhaps alien to humans, facilitates Mind, thinking and a sense of self that extend beyond the present.
  • However, there are many challenges that theories of consciousness have to overcome. When Troiani, Price, and Schultz presented participants with stimuli outside their field of vision, they reported not seeing images, however, invisible fearful faces and homes caused increased activation of associated brain regions frightened.

Consciousness theories

Many believe that appropriately programmed computers can become conscious, Christoph Koch believes otherwise, saying in an interview that consciousness is not an intelligent hack, experience does not arise from computation, and Stuart Russell, a professor of computer science at the University of California, has worried about whether The behavior of the computer system was conscious or not, and its concern is whether artificial intelligence has the potential to become evil and harm society. Here are two theories of consciousness:

  • Integrated Information Theory (IIT)

Integrated information theory defines consciousness as emerging, believes that consciousness emerges from the complex behavior of the brain, Koch describes integrated information theory as linking the study of the nature of existence and phenomena, and the study of how things appear, it is a deep and complex theory with mathematical foundations that predicts new phenomena and the results of modern anesthesia research, IIT attempts to identify and explain the essential properties of consciousness in the complexity of the platform. 

  • Global Workspace Theory

Global workspace theory is perhaps the most influential theory of consciousness, while there are variations on this model, and there are a set of common assumptions:

  • Consciousness depends on many specialized unconscious processes that work in parallel, for example, movement, depth perception, and color processing work together in the visual system.
  • Information from each process is combined during late stage processing.
  • The content of consciousness affects the active processes.
  • Attention and awareness are closely related, attention is like choosing a television channel and awareness is like an image on a screen.

Research has provided support for the assumptions of global workspace theory, however, while the approach lends itself to tasks of visual perception, it is less easily applied to subjective knowledge or other psychological processes.

How to measure consciousness

  • Traditionally consciousness has been measured subjectively, i.e. by asking someone how conscious they are of something, what is experienced here (aerial consciousness) and what you can report to that experience by accessing consciousness.
  • However, further research has made it possible to objectively measure and record consciousness using units known as phi.
  •  In a 2018 study, patients connected to an EEG via electrodes attached to the scalp before anesthesia, when they drifted into an unconscious state, could record brain waves and track the decline in phi.
  • Giulio Tononi describes phi as the amount of consciousness in a system, biological or artificial, usually high in a system of specialized units that can interact quickly and effectively, and he also says that phi appears to vary within the brain, with different regions of the brain anatomy showing varying degrees of consciousness .

Studies on consciousness

  • Anesthesia

Anesthesia has been critical to surgery for more than two centuries, and surprisingly, how a conscious person turns into an unconscious person has remained unclear. A 2018 study by Kim, Hudetz, Lee, Mashour, and Lee recorded brain waves of patients undergoing anesthesia, and the results confirmed They found that consciousness is not the same as a switch on, whether it is open or closed, and instead, as the dose of anesthesia increases, the phi scale of consciousness falls, to the point where all perception is absent, and the patient fails to respond, even to pain, research indicates He suggests that this decrease in consciousness may result from the ability of the anesthetic to turn off arousal in the brain and block the integration of information.  

  • Consciousness can be deceived

Although awareness is important to the experience and what a human feels, it is not always reliable. In a classic study known as the rubber hand illusion , participants hid one hand from view and replaced it with a similar rubber hand. When the fake hand was struck, participants reported being aware With the new hand and experienced a sense of ownership, and when this was recently repeated in virtual reality , researchers found that the virtual limb can also feel very real, suggesting that our sense of self is not coherent and can extend to non-physical objects, may be nature and be the content of consciousness Less clear than we can imagine.


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