The study of consciousness in psychology has come a full circle. Early Nursery Teacher Training educators equated consciousness with the mind and defined psychology as “the study of the mind and consciousness.” With the advent of behaviorism, consciousness was rejected as matter not good enough for scientific study. However, modern psychologists recognize that consciousness is far too important to be neglected all together and hence have once again included it as the subject matter of psychology. The Different Aspects of Consciousness CONSCIOUSNESS: Consciousness may be described as a state of awareness. It is awareness of ourselves and of the external world. The awareness of thoughts, sensations, memories and the world around us represents the experience of consciousness. According to Kihlstrom, consciousness involves: 1. Monitoring ourselves and our environment so that percepts, memories, and thoughts are represented in awareness, and 2. Controlling ourselves and our environment so that we are able to initiate and terminate behavioral and cognitive activities. Thus the two important elements of consciousness are monitoring and controlling. The main function of the body’s sensory system is to monitor and process information that we receive from the environment. As a result we are aware of what is going around us and within our bodies. However, we would experience an information overload if we attended to all the stimuli that bombard us. Hence, our consciousness is selective. We pay attention to some stimuli and ignore others. We give top priority to those stimuli that are essential for our survival. The controlling function of consciousness is to plan, initiate, and guide our actions. These plans may be simple and immediately implemented (such as having dinner) or they may be complex and long range (such as cancer plans). While planning we also envision future scenarios and accordingly make appropriate choices and take suitable steps. All our actions are not conscious ones. There are decisions and actions that are entirely outside our consciousness. For example, sometimes solutions to some of our problems come out of nowhere. Although such solutions occur at the nonconscious level it does not involve conscious reflection. PRECONSCIOUS MEMORIES Preconscious memories refer to the memories of events that are accessible to consciousness. They are memories that are not a part of current thoughts but which can be readily brought to mind if needed. Preconscious memories are made of personal events, information gathered during the life time, learned skills like driving and so on. Research indicates that we register and evaluate the information that we do not consciously perceive. For example, we may be talking with our friends in the college canteen ignoring everything else around us, however if somebody calls our name it immediately catches our attention. These shows that we are monitoring events around us even we are not consciously perceiving it. THE UNCONSCIOUS Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory was one of the earliest theories on consciousness. Freud believed that a large part of the human mind is the unconscious. It contains thoughts, desires and impulses of which we are largely unaware. The unconscious contains all those memories, experiences, images, feelings and motives that one cannot bring voluntarily to consciousness. Much of the material in the unconscious had once been conscious but was actively repressed-driven from conscious because it was too anxiety provoking. According to Freud, shameful experiences or unacceptable sexual or aggressive urges are often driven deep in to the unconscious. The fact that we are not aware of the unconscious does not prevent it from affecting our behavior. The repressed thoughts and impulses affect us in indirect and disguised ways such as dreams and slips of the tongue. Psychologists believe that unintentional remarks reveal hidden impulses and desires. They refer to such impulses as Freudian impulses. Freud believed that the cause of most mental illness were the conscious desires and impulses. The symptoms experienced by his patients suffering from mental illness were disguised and indirect reflection of repressed thoughts and desires. Psychoanalysis was the method that Freud developed to bring the repressed material back in to consciousness so that it can be dealt with more effectively. A study by Bargh, Chen and Burrows (1996) demonstrated how environmental cues our behavior without our being conscious about it. The experiment was conducted in the following manner by Teacher Training Mumbai: 1. The researchers attempted to study how people are affected by the stereotypes they hold about elderly persons. 2. Participants in the experiment were first given a language test in which they had to disentangle a number of scrambled sentences. 3. Subjects in the experimental group were given sentences that contained words such as forgetful, frail, retirement which evoked stereotypes that are commonly associated with elderly people. 4. The subjects in the control group were given sentences which did not contain such words. 5. After the test as the subjects were leaving, a research assistant who did not know to which group the participants belonged measured the time it took them to walk down the 40foot hallway to the exit. 6. The interesting finding was the participants who had been exposed to elderly stereotypes words walked more slowly and took greater time. 7. When the participants were interviewed later, they showed no awareness of the indirect influence on their behavior.
Consciousness : PRECONSCIOUS MEMORIES