By Robert Biswas-Diener and also Jake Teeny

Portland State University, The Ohio State University

No issue what you’redoing--solving homework, play a video clip game, merely picking the end a shirt--all ofyour actions and also decisions said to your consciousness. Yet as commonly as weuse it, have actually you ever before stopped to ask yourself: What yes, really is consciousness? In this module, we comment on the various levelsof consciousness and also how lock can impact your habits in a range ofsituations. Together well, we explore the role of consciousness in other, “altered”states favor hypnosis and sleep.

You are watching: Daydreaming would be considered an example of which of the following levels of awareness?

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Learning Objectives

Define consciousness and distinguish between high and low mindful statesExplain the relationship in between consciousness and biasUnderstand the difference in between popular portrayals of hypnosis and also how the is right now used therapeuticallyIntroduction

Have you ever before had a fellow motorist stopped beside you at a red light, to sing his brains out, or picking his nose, or otherwise behaving in means he can not normally do in public? there is something around being alone in a vehicle that encourages human being to region out and also forget the others deserve to see them. Back these little lapses that attention room amusing because that the rest of us, they are likewise instructive when it involves the subject of consciousness.

This guy is singing his heart the end in his one-man cell phone music studio. Have actually you ever before done this?

Consciousness is a term meant to indicate awareness. It contains awareness the the self, the bodily sensations, the thoughts and of the environment. In English, we use the opposite native “unconscious” to suggest senselessness or a barrier to awareness, as in the instance of “Theresa fell off the ladder and hit her head, knocking it s her unconscious.” and also yet, emotional theory and also research indicate that consciousness and also unconsciousness are more complicated than falling turn off a ladder. The is, awareness is more than just being “on” or “off.” because that instance, Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)—a mental theorist—understood that even while we are awake, numerous things lay exterior the realm of our conscious awareness (like gift in the car and also forgetting the remainder of the civilization can see right into your windows). In an answer to this notion, Freud presented the principle of the “subconscious” (Freud, 2001) and proposed that several of our memories and even our an easy motivations space not always accessible to our conscious minds.

Upon reflection, the is simple to see how slippery a topic awareness is. Because that example, are people mindful when castle are daydreaming? What around when castle are drunk? In this module, we will define several level of consciousness and also then discuss altered states of consciousness such as hypnosis and sleep.

Levels the Awareness

In 1957, a marketing researcher inserted the words “Eat Popcorn” top top one framework of a movie being displayed all throughout the joined States. And also although that frame was only projected ~ above the movie screen because that 1/24th that a second—a rate too fast to be viewed by mindful awareness—the researcher reported an increase in popcorn sales by virtually 60%. Almost immediately, all forms of “subliminal messaging” to be regulated in the US and also banned in countries such together Australia and also the united Kingdom. Also though it to be later shown that the researcher had comprised the data (he hadn’t even inserted the words into the film), this fear about influences on our subconscious persists. At its heart, this concern pits assorted levels that awareness versus one another. Top top the one hand, we have the “low awareness” the subtle, even subliminal influences. Top top the various other hand, over there is you—the conscious thinking, feeling you which includes all that you are at this time aware of, even reading this sentence. However, when we consider these different levels that awareness separately, us can much better understand how they operate.

Low Awareness

You room constantly receiving and evaluating sensory information. Although every moment has actually too countless sights, smells, and also sounds because that them all to be consciously considered, our brain are nevertheless processing all the information. Because that example, have you ever gone to a party, overwhelmed by every the people and conversation, as soon as out of nowhere you hear your name called? even though you have no idea what rather the human being is saying, you room somehow aware of your name (for more on this, “the cocktail party effect,” view Noba’s Module on Attention). So, even though you may not be aware of miscellaneous stimuli in your environment, your mind is payment closer attention 보다 you think.

comparable to a reflex (like jumping once startled), some cues, or far-reaching sensory information, will instantly elicit a response from us even though we never consciously awareness it. For example, Öhman and also Soares (1994) measured ethereal variations in sweating of participants with a fear of snakes. The researchers flashed photos of various objects (e.g., mushrooms, flowers, and most importantly, snakes) ~ above a screen in former of them, but did so in ~ speeds the left the participant clueless as to what that or she had actually actually seen. However, once snake photos were flashed, these participants started sweating more (i.e., a authorize of fear), even though they had actually no idea what they’d just viewed!

although our brains perceive some stimuli there is no our mindful awareness, carry out they really influence our subsequent thoughts and also behaviors? In a landmark study, Bargh, Chen, and Burrows (1996) had actually participants deal with a word find puzzle where the answers came to words around the yonsei (e.g., “old,” “grandma”) or something random (e.g., “notebook,” “tomato”). Afterward, the researchers secretly measured how rapid the entrants walked down the hallway exiting the experiment. And also although no one of the attendees were mindful of a design template to the answers, those who had actually solved a puzzle v elderly native (vs. Those v other varieties of words) walked more slowly down the hallway!


This effect is called priming (i.e., readily “activating” specific concepts and associations from one’s memory) has actually been found in a variety of other studies. Because that example, priming world by having actually them drink native a heat glass (vs. A cold one) caused behaving an ext “warmly” toward others (Williams & Bargh, 2008). Although every one of these influences take place beneath one’s aware awareness, lock still have actually a significant effect ~ above one’s subsequent thoughts and behaviors. 

In the last 2 decades, researchers have made advancements in studying facets of psychology the exist beyond mindful awareness. As you have the right to understand, it is complicated to usage self-reports and surveys to ask people around motives or beliefs that they, themselves, could not also be aware of! One means of side-stepping this an obstacle can be found in the latent associations test, or IAT (Greenwald, McGhee & Schwartz, 1998). This research an approach uses computer systems to evaluate people’s reaction time to assorted stimuli and also is a very an overwhelming test to fake due to the fact that it documents automatic reaction that occur in milliseconds. Because that instance, to melted light ~ above deeply held biases, the IAT might present photographs that Caucasian faces and also Asian deals with while asking research participants come click buttons indicating one of two people “good” or “bad” as conveniently as possible. Also if the participant clicks “good” for every challenge shown, the IAT deserve to still choose up tiny delays in responding. Delays are associated with an ext mental initiative needed to process information. When details is processed quickly—as in the example of white faces being judged together “good”—it have the right to be contrasted with slower processing—as in the example of oriental faces being judged as “good”—and the distinction in processing speed is reflective of bias. In this regard, the IAT has actually been provided for investigate stereotypes (Nosek, Banaji & Greenwald, 2002) as well as self-esteem (Greenwald & Farnam, 2000). This an approach can aid uncover non-conscious biases and also those that we are encouraged to suppress.

An really screenshot from an IAT (Implicit combination Test) the a person could take to test their own psychological representations of assorted cognitive constructs. In this details case, this is things testing one individual’s unconscious reaction towards members of various ethnic groups.

High Awareness

Just since we might be affected by these “invisible” factors, the doesn’t typical we space helplessly regulated by them. The other side that the awareness continuum is well-known as “high awareness.” This includes effortful attention and also careful decision making. For example, once you listen to a funny story top top a date, or take into consideration which class schedule would certainly be preferable, or finish a facility math problem, you are engaging a state of consciousness that allows you to it is in highly conscious of and also focused on certain details in your environment.

Meditation has actually been exercised for centuries in religious contexts. In the past 50 years it has come to be increasingly famous as a secular practice. Clinical studies have connected meditation to reduced stress and higher well-being.

Mindfulness is a state of greater consciousness that includes an awareness of the thoughts passing through one’s head. For example, have you ever snapped at who in frustration, just to take it a moment and reflect ~ above why you responded so aggressively? This much more effortful consideration of her thoughts might be described as an growth of your aware awareness as you take the moment to consider the feasible influences on her thoughts. Research study has displayed that when you connect in this more deliberate consideration, you are less persuaded by irregularity yet biasing influences, choose the visibility of a celebrity in an advertisement (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Greater awareness is also associated v recognizing once you’re making use of a stereotype, rather than relatively evaluating an additional person (Gilbert & Hixon, 1991).

Humans alternative between low and also high reasoning states. That is, we shift between focused attention and also a less attentive default sate, and also we have neural networks because that both (Raichle, 2015). Interestingly, the the less we’re payment attention, the more likely we space to be affected by non-conscious stimuli (Chaiken, 1980). Although this subtle impacts may influence us, we can use our greater conscious awareness to protect versus external influences. In what’s well-known as the functional Correction model (Wegener & Petty, 1997), human being who are mindful that your thoughts or habits are being affected by an undue, external source, have the right to correct your attitude versus the bias. Because that example, you could be mindful that you are affected by mention of details political parties. If you were encouraged to consider a government policy you deserve to take your very own biases right into account to effort to take into consideration the policy in a fair method (on its very own merits rather than being attached come a particular party). 

To aid make the relationship in between lower and higher consciousness clearer, imagine the mind is like a journey down a river. In low awareness, you just float on a tiny rubber raft and let the currents push you. It"s no very difficult to just drift along but you likewise don"t have complete control. Higher states of awareness are much more like traveling in a canoe. In this scenario, you have a paddle and can steer, yet it requires much more effort. This analogy applies to many states the consciousness, however not all. What around other claims such as like sleeping, daydreaming, or hypnosis? exactly how are these pertained to our mindful awareness? 

Table 1: states of ConsciousnessOther says of Consciousness


If you’ve ever watched a stage hypnotist perform, it may paint a misleading portrait of this state the consciousness. The hypnotized human being on stage, because that example, appear to it is in in a state similar to sleep. However, as the hypnotist continues with the show, friend would acknowledge some extensive differences in between sleep and also hypnosis. Namely, when you’re asleep, hearing the word “strawberry” doesn’t make you flap your arms choose a chicken. In phase performances, the hypnotized participants appear to be extremely suggestible, come the suggest that they room seemingly under the hypnotist’s control. Such performances are entertaining but have a means of sensationalizing the true nature the hypnotic states.

People gift hypnotized ~ above stage.

Hypnosis is one actual, documented phenomenon—one that has been studied and also debated for over 200 year (Pekala et al., 2010). Franz Mesmer (1734 – 1815) is often credited as among the very first people come “discover” hypnosis, i beg your pardon he provided to act members of elite culture who were experiencing mental distress. The is native Mesmer’s name that we obtain the English word, “mesmerize” meaning “to enntrance gate or transfix a person’s attention.” Mesmer meeting the effect of hypnosis come “animal magnetism,” a supposed universal pressure (similar come gravity) that operates through all person bodies. Also at the time, such an account that hypnosis was no scientifically supported, and Mesmer self was generally the facility of controversy.

Over the years, researchers have actually proposed the hypnosis is a psychological state defined by lessened peripheral awareness and increased focus on a singular stimulus, which outcomes in an amplified susceptibility to tip (Kihlstrom, 2003). For example, the hypnotist will commonly induce hypnosis by gaining the human being to pay attention just to the hypnotist’s voice. As the separation, personal, instance focuses much more and more on that, s/he starts to forget the context of the setting and responds come the hypnotist’s suggestions as if they were his or her own. Some people are naturally an ext suggestible, and therefore an ext “hypnotizable” than space others, and also this is specifically true for those that score high in empathy (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003). One usual “trick” of phase hypnotists is come discard volunteers that are much less suggestible than others. 

Dissociation is the separation that one’s awareness from every little thing besides what one is centrally focused on. For example, if you’ve ever before been daydreaming in class, friend were most likely so recorded up in the fantasy the you didn’t hear a native the teacher said. Throughout hypnosis, this dissociation i do not care even much more extreme. That is, a human being concentrates so lot on the words of the hypnotist the s/he loser perspective that the remainder of the world roughly them. As a consequence of dissociation, a human is less effortful, and less self-conscious in consideration of his or her own thoughts and also behaviors. Comparable to low awareness states, where one often acts upon the an initial thought that comes to mind, so, too, in hypnosis go the individual simply follow the an initial thought that concerns mind, i.e., the hypnotist’s suggestion. Still, just since one is more susceptible to pointer under hypnosis, it doesn’t average s/he will carry out anything that’s ordered. To it is in hypnotized, you must an initial want to it is in hypnotized (i.e., you can’t be hypnotized against your will; Lynn & Kirsh, 2006), and also once you room hypnotized, friend won’t perform anything friend wouldn’t likewise do when in a more natural state of consciousness (Lynn, Rhue, & Weekes, 1990).

Today, hypnotherapy is still provided in a range of formats, and it has developed from Mesmer’s beforehand tinkering with the concept. Modern-day hypnotherapy often uses a mix of relaxation, suggestion, an inspiration and expectancies to produce a preferred mental or behavioral state. Although over there is mixed proof on whether hypnotherapy can help with addiction reduction (e.g., quitting smoking; kidnapping et al., 1998) over there is some proof that it can be effective in dealing with sufferers of acute and also chronic ache (Ewin, 1978; Syrjala et al., 1992). Because that example, one examine examined the treatment of burn patients v either hypnotherapy, pseudo-hypnosis (i.e., a placebo condition), or no treatment at all. Afterward, also though world in the placebo problem experienced a 16% diminish in pain, those in the yes, really hypnosis problem experienced a palliation of practically 50% (Patterson et al., 1996). Thus, also though hypnosis might be sensationalized because that television and also movies, its capability to disassociate a human being from their atmosphere (or their pain) in connect with enhanced suggestibility come a clinician’s references (e.g., “you will certainly feel less anxiety around your chronic pain”) is a recorded practice v actual medical benefits.

Now, comparable to hypnotic states, trance states likewise involve a dissociation of the self; however, civilization in a trance state are claimed to have actually less voluntary regulate over their behaviors and also actions. Trance states often occur in religious ceremonies, whereby the human believes the or she is “possessed” by one otherworldly being or force. If in trance, civilization report anecdotal account of a “higher consciousness” or communion with a better power. However, the human body of research investigating this phenomenon has tendency to reject the claim that these experiences constitute an “altered state the consciousness.”

Most researchers today explain both hypnosis and trance states as “subjective” alterations of consciousness, not an actually unique or evolved form (Kirsch & Lynn, 1995). As with you feel different when she in a state the deep relaxation, so, too, are hypnotic and trance states simply shifts native the standard mindful experience. Researchers complete that also though both hypnotic and trance claims appear and feel wildly different than the normal human experience, they deserve to be defined by traditional socio-cognitive factors like imagination, expectation, and the translate of the situation.


Sleep is essential in stimulate for people to role well.

You may have experienced the sensation-- together you are falling asleep-- the falling and also then found yourself physical jerking forward and also grabbing out together if friend were yes, really falling. Sleep is a distinct state the consciousness; that lacks complete awareness however the mind is still active. Civilization generally follow a “biological clock” that results when lock naturally end up being drowsy, once they loss asleep, and also the time they naturally awaken. The hormone melatonin boosts at night and also is connected with becoming sleepy. Her natural everyday rhythm, or Circadian Rhythm, deserve to be affected by the lot of daylight to which you space exposed as well as your occupational and activity schedule. Changing your location, such as flying from Canada come England, deserve to disrupt your organic sleep rhythms, and also we speak to this jet lag. You can overcome jet lag through synchronizing yourself to the regional schedule through exposing you yourself to daylight and also forcing yourself to remain awake also though friend are naturally sleepy.

Interestingly, sleep chin is more than shutting turn off for the night (or for a nap). Instead of transforming off prefer a light through a flick that a switch, your shift in awareness is reflected in her brain’s electrical activity. When you are awake and alert your mind activity is significant by beta waves. Beta waves are defined by being high in frequency yet low in intensity. In addition, they room the many inconsistent mind wave and this shows the large variation in sensory input the a human processes throughout the day. Together you start to be sure these change to alpha waves. This waves reflect mind activity that is much less frequent, much more consistent and an ext intense. Together you slip into actual sleep you change through numerous stages. Scholars different on how they characterize sleep stages with some experts saying that there space four distinct stages (Manoach et al., 2010), while others recognize 5 (Šušmáková, & Krakovská, 2008) but lock all distinguish between those that incorporate rapid eye activity (REM) and also those that are non-rapid eye motion (NREM). In addition, each stage is typically identified by its own distinctive pattern of mind activity:

Stage 1 (called NREM 1, or N1) is the "falling asleep" stage and is marked by theta waves.Stage 2 (called NREM 2, or N2) is thought about a light sleep. Here, there room occasional “sleep spindles,” or really high intensity brain waves. These room thought come be associated with the processing of memories. NREM 2 provides up around 55% of all sleep.Stage 3 (called NREM 3, or N3) renders up between 20-25% of all sleep and is marked by greater muscle relaxation and the illustration of delta waves.Finally, REM sleep is significant by fast eye movement (REM). Interestingly, this stage—in state of mind activity—is similar to wakefulness. That is, the brain waves occur less strongly than in various other stages of sleep. REM sleep account for around 20% of all sleep and also is associated with dreaming. 
Figure 1. Transforms in brain activity or brainwaves across different stages of awareness – from being awake and also throughout assorted stages of sleep.

Dreams are, arguably, the many interesting aspect of sleep. Throughout background dreams have actually been provided special importance since of your unique, almost mystical nature. They have been thought to be predictions the the future, ideas of hidden aspects of the self, necessary lessons about how come live life, or methods to connect in difficult deeds like flying. There are several completing theories that why people dream. One is the it is ours nonconscious attempt to make feeling of our daily experiences and also learning. Another, popularized by Freud, is that dreams represent taboo or troublesome wishes or desires. Nevertheless of the details reason we recognize a couple of facts about dreams: all humans dream, we dream in ~ every stage of sleep, but dreams throughout REM sleep are especially vivid. One under-explored area the dream research study is the feasible social functions of dreams: we frequently share our dreams with others and also use them because that entertainment value.

Sleep serves numerous functions, among which is to provide us a duration of mental and physical restoration. Youngsters generally need more sleep 보다 adults because they space developing. The is so vital, in fact, that a absence of sleep is connected with a wide variety of problems. Civilization who perform not obtain adequate sleep are an ext irritable, have actually slower reaction time, have actually more difficulty sustaining attention, and also make poorer decisions. Interestingly, this is an problem relevant come the resides of university students. In one very cited research researchers found that 1 in 5 college student took more than 30 minutes to autumn asleep at night, 1 in 10 occasionally took sleep medications, and much more than fifty percent reported gift “mostly tired” in the mornings (Buboltz, et al, 2001).

Psychoactive Drugs

~ above April 16, 1943, Albert Hoffman—a Swiss chemist functioning in a pharmaceutical company—accidentally ingested a newly synthesized drug. The drug—lysergic acid diethylimide (LSD)—turned the end to it is in a an effective hallucinogen. Hoffman walk home and later reported the results of the drug, explicate them together seeing the world through a “warped mirror” and experiencing visions the “extraordinary forms with intense, kaleidoscopic pat of colors.” Hoffman had found what members that many classic cultures roughly the world currently knew: there space substances that, as soon as ingested, can have a powerful effect ~ above perception and also on consciousness.

Drugs run on human being physiology in a variety of ways and researchers and medical doctors tend to classify drugs according to your effects. Here we will briefly cover 3 categories of drugs: hallucinogens, depressants, and stimulants.


It is feasible that hallucinogens room the substance the have, historically, been provided the many widely. Timeless societies have actually used plant-based hallucinogens such as peyote, ebene, and psilocybin mushrooms in a wide range of religious ceremonies. Hallucinogens room substances that change a who perceptions, frequently by developing visions or hallucinations that room not real. There space a wide range of hallucinogens and also many are used as recreational substances in developed societies. Usual examples incorporate marijuana, LSD, and MDMA (also recognized as “ecstasy”). Marijuana is the dried flowers of the hemp plant and is frequently smoked to create euphoria. The active ingredient in marijuana is called THC and also can develop distortions in the tardy of time, can create a feeling of rambling, unrelated thoughts, and is sometimes linked with enhanced hunger or too much laughter. The use and also possession that marijuana is illegal in most places yet this appears to it is in a trend that is changing. Uruguay, Bangladesh, and several of the united States, have recently legalized marijuana. This might be due, in part, to transforming public mindsets or to the reality that marijuana is increasingly used for medical purposes such as the administration of nausea or dealing with glaucoma.


Depressants space substances that, together their surname suggests, sluggish down the body’s physiology and mental processes. Alcohol is the many widely used depressant. Alcohol’s effects include the reduction of inhibition, an interpretation that intoxicated people are an ext likely to act in means they would otherwise be wake up to. Alcohol’s psychological results are the an outcome of it raising the neurotransmitter GABA. Over there are likewise physical effects, such together loss that balance and also coordination, and also these stem indigenous the way that alcohol interferes v the coordination that the visual and motor equipment of the brain. Despite the truth that alcohol is for this reason widely welcomed in plenty of cultures that is likewise associated v a selection of dangers. First, alcohol is toxic, an interpretation that it acts prefer a poison since it is possible to drink an ext alcohol than the human body can effectively remove indigenous the bloodstream. Once a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) will .3 come .4% over there is a severe risk that death. Second, the absence of judgment and physical control associated with alcohol is associated with more risk taking behavior or dangerous habits such as drunk driving. Finally, alcohol is addictive and also heavy drinkers often experience far-ranging interference v their capacity to work effectively or in their close relationships.

Other typical depressants include opiates (also called “narcotics”), which room substances synthesized from the poppy flower. Opiates wake up endorphin manufacturing in the brain and as such they are frequently used as pain killers by medical professionals. Unfortunately, because opiates such as Oxycontin for this reason reliably develop euphoria lock are increasingly used—illegally—as to chat substances. Opiates are highly addictive.

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Caffeine is the most widely spend stimulant in the world. Be honest, how many cups of coffee, tea, or energy drinks have actually you had actually today?

Stimulants room substances the “speed up” the body’s physiological and mental processes. Two generally used stimulants are caffeine—the drug uncovered in coffee and also tea—and nicotine, the active drug in cigarettes and also other tobacco products. These substances room both legit and reasonably inexpensive, bring about their extensive use. Many world are attractive to stimulants since they feel more alert as soon as under the affect of this drugs. Together with any drug there are health risks connected with consumption. For example, excessive usage of these species of stimulants can an outcome in anxiety, headaches, and also insomnia. Similarly, cigarette smoking cigarettes—the most common means of ingesting nicotine—is connected with greater risks of cancer. For instance, amongst heavy smokers 90% that lung cancer is straight attributable to smoking cigarettes (Stewart & Kleihues, 2003).

over there are various other stimulants such together cocaine and methamphetamine (also well-known as “crystal meth” or “ice”) that space illegal substances the are typically used. These substances action by impede “re-uptake” the dopamine in the brain. This way that the mind does not normally clear the end the dopamine and also that it build up in the synapse, developing euphoria and also alertness. As the results wear off it stimulates solid cravings for more of the drug. Therefore these powerful stimulants are highly addictive.


When you think around your day-to-day life it is easy to acquire lulled right into the id that over there is one “setting” for your conscious thought. The is, girlfriend likely believe that you host the very same opinions, values, and also memories throughout the day and throughout the week. However “you” are favor a dimmer switch on a light that can be turn from full darkness increasingly on up to complete brightness. This move is consciousness. At her brightest setting you are completely alert and aware; in ~ dimmer settings you space day dreaming; and also sleep or being knocked unconscious stand for dimmer settings still. The level to i m sorry you are in high, medium, or low states of mindful awareness impact how vulnerable you space to persuasion, how clear your judgment is, and how much detail you have the right to recall. Knowledge levels that awareness, then, is in ~ the love of understanding exactly how we learn, decide, remember and many other crucial psychological processes.

Outside Resources

App: visual illusions for the iPad. A exorbitant book around how small we know about ourselves: Wilson, T. D. (2004). Strangers to ourselves. Cambridge, MA: Harvard university Press. one more wonderful publication about free will—or its absence?: Wegner, D. M. (2002). The illusion of aware will. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Warning - some individuals may find the following content distressing. Video: Howie Mandel native America\\\\\\\"s gained Talent gift hypnotized right into shaking hands with people: