Self-Awareness and Habituation
I often find that the times I feel most self-aware are those moments when I choose to counteract the habituation of stimuli in my environment. Hear the lights above you, feel your own heart-beat, see the rise and fall of your own chest. In ignoring these constant sensory stimuli, our brain becomes much more efficient at processing the immense amount of information that our senses receive. When I choose to take note of the little things going on around me that usually fall unnoticed, I often gain appreciation for just how complex I am and how complex the world around me is. Through this experience I gain a feeling of increased self-awareness.
This notion brings up the question of whether or not animals can be self-aware. It is commonly accepted that animals (with the exception of Chimpanzees and Orangutans) generally fail the mirror test for self-awareness.
Also, it is generally accepted that most animals engage in sensory habituation. My question is whether animals can then choose to scale back this habituation and in the process become self-aware? This is obviously a difficult hypothesis to test, although there are many possible routes for experiments. The first question I think is worth answering is whether the act of realizing habituation is in fact a sign of higher level consciousness and thus not a cause of self-awareness, but a result of it. I would be very interested to see some research on this topic. Any thoughts?
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Self-Awareness and Habituation
In chapter 5, the author introduced a concept called lucid dreaming, which is defined as experience of becoming aware that one is dreaming (Page 171, Lilienfeld textbook, lucid dreaming). It challenged the idea that people are either totally asleep or totally awake. According to the textbook, most of people have experienced lucid dreaming. More that 70% of people believe they can control their dreams.
In my opinion, lucid dreaming can be interpreted as the grey area between total asleep and total awake. It is common in our daily lives. For example, my Mom has been having lucid dream for a long time, and she often described her dreams as partially related to her real life experience. For example, she will dream about cooking at her kitchen. She might wake up and realized it was a dream, but later she would continue the dream. It seems that she was telling a story, and suddenly the story was stopped when she realized she was dreaming, and then she fell asleep again and the story continued.
I have experienced lucid dreaming for many times. Especially after I played basketball. I got excited about the game and would think about it when going to bed. When I fell asleep, I often dreamed about playing basketball, and during the dream when I jump for a rebound I often kicked my legs in bed, sometimes it woke me up and made me realized that it was a dream, but later I usually continued sleeping with the same dream. In addition to the dreams of sports, I experienced lucid dreaming when I have nightmares and dreams of violence. The scary content of the dreams woke me up, but I could not get up from my bed. I would know it was a dream, and I would fell asleep again continued the same dream. I tried to control the dream sometimes when it is scary, but usually it did not work.
I think the concept of lucid dream is very important for the reason that it opens up the possibility of controlling our dreams. There are a couple of times when I have nightmares I could control my mind and told myself it was only a dream and felt peaceful. However, I have not successfully got up from bed when I realized I was having a nightmare. I believe it is possible to control one's dream with some practice.
In addition, based on the scientific thinking principle #4 of replicability (Page 23, Lilienfeld textbook, scientific thinking principle #4), if the assumption that we can control our dreams is correct, we need to do further experiments to get the same results to show that it can be replicated. My personally experience of controlling my dream can be led by a fluke.
Throughout history the most popular drug choice has been the depressant Alcohol. It is believed to been used in the Stone Age 10,000 years ago. Alcohol depresses areas of the brain that alter our emotion and behaviors. Alcohol does this by entering our bloodstream through the stomach and intestines.
Alcohol is a very important topic today with all the binge drinking occurring on college campuses. About 70% of college students drink alcohol and about 45% of these binge drink. There are some pretty amazing statistics of what alcohol has caused on college campuses.1900 students die and 600,000 students are injured annually due to alcohol.
How do we control binge drinking on college campuses? This is a problem that all campuses face. There seems to be no clear answer.
When do we become aware of self? That's the first problem which the instructor searches for. Did you ever think about this matter? Everyone have the senses of the outside word. Imagine that I am walking on the street, I can feel the wind and air flow, see people walking on the street, and hear that somebody is talking about hot issue. Sometimes, you can clearly hear your breath in a small room, which tell you that you are alive. We have this feeling when we were in childhood, we called it self-aware. Self aware describes the characteristic of knowing yourself, understanding your decisions and being conscious of how you behave (yourdictionary.com).
Focus on the video, the scientist held an experience with a girl who is 22 months. The scientist put a black mark on her face, and then let her see herself in a mirror. Then the little girl aware of there is a black mark on her face and tried to get it off. It proves that she know the person in the mirror is herself, she already has self-awareness. In contrast, a little baby who do the same test as the little girl. But he do not recognize who the person in the mirror is, he laugh at himself! Thus we are being self-aware when we were only 22 months.
According to the test, we know that the baby who does not have self-aware, his cortex of brain do not fully developed. However, the girl's brain has already formed to conscious her self. But does the result various in different people? I think that the questions that we still have to solve.
I recently read an article about College Students who experience Night Terrors. This article was interesting because it is very unusual for someone as old as a college student to still be having night terrrors, but when they do they are pretty extreme. Night terrors can be a reoccurence of something that has startled or disturbed one in the past. These terrors often cause crying and screaming and are very hard to wake out of it. The article mentioned that not only is it difficult to wake someone during a night terror, but it can also be dangerous. Waking someone from a night terror can cause them to freak out or believe that you are apart of it, which could result in harm to both of you. Even though this is very rare in college students, it still occurs. I have a friend that has night terrors every once in awhile and its scary to deal with. She always says its hard to fall asleep because she never knows when they are going to happen. I can't imagine being scared to fall asleep every night.
Sleep is probably the most important aspect of our lives. It allows humans to recover from mental stress as well as physical stress. However, what is more interesting is the possible repercussions sleep has in aiding memory and learning. If is difficult to precisely describe the biological processes that take place when the brain is in sleep, but there are ways we can compare the brain when it is asleep to when it is awake. Detecting different types of brain waves can allow a researcher to study sleep cycles and make inferences to what may be happening during sleep. One example of this is the comparison between brain waves while awake and the brain waves in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It is interesting to note that the brain waves produced in REM sleep largely resemble those produced while fully conscious and awake. All of the other stages (Stage 1-4) are more unique and can be easily distinguished from each other. REM sleep is also associated with the majority of dreams. Most of these dreams are contrary to reality and can have a great deal of fantasy to them. It is debated how these dreams are produced and how they reflect our own cognition. Some believe that dreams are merely crazy interpretations that are brain makes when the pons sends signals throughout it, but others believe that the forebrain has a large effect on dreams. The latter would suggest that dreams could serve more of a purpose as opposed to random images. Recent studies have been able to conjure images from a subjects' brain based on what they are seeing on a screen. The results so far have been extremely impressive and if this technique could be applied to dreams to provide a visual representation, a deeper look can be given to the psychological applications of dreams. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nsjDnYxJ0bo
Although many psychologists have researched REM sleep and tried to explain its importance, we are still not completely certain as to why it is necessary. Scientists have even conducted experiments in which rats die from being deprived of REM sleep, bringing to light just how essential it is to our survival. There have been many possible scientific reasons as to why organisms need it. One that particularly caught my attention was that regarding real-life simulation. I recently watched an episode of Nova called "What Are Dreams?" on Netflix that went into depth about how the brain may be producing simulations of possible real-life scenarios when we dream. For instance, someone may have a dream that he or she gets fired from his or her job. Dreaming about this could mentally prepare that person for that particular situation if it were to happen in real life. Just as in the textbook, the Nova program also touched on the subject of deactivating a certain part of a cat's brain that paralyzes them during REM sleep. This experiment allowed researchers to see that, during REM sleep, the cat's movements were that of everyday activities, like hunting. I found that this evidence strongly supported the statement that REM sleep prepares one for real life by simulating real-life scenarios.
For this blog post, I'm going to talk about the topic in chapter five, specifically about sleep. Considering that we are all college students sleep is not only scare, but also an extremely important topic. I used to be pretty naïve about the issue but after reading some brain health books and taking biology is realized its importance. As important as it is, it pales in comparison to how prevalent it is as well. Many formal studies, in addition to the informal one we did in class confirms this. From reading the textbook and these brain health books it appears there is a good correlation between maintaining good brain health. However, it's important to point out, it's a chicken and the egg type argument (because its hard to exactly determine if sleeping habits causes good brain health or if good brain health habits create better sleep habits), improving on sleep habits or brain habits has an impact on the other. I think its interesting because the ideas sound so easy in theory, but are so hard in practice, especially as technology keeps improving. Mainly all of these things that help brain health and in turn aid in sleeping well include working out regularly, eating healthy and especially refraining from fatty foods at night, not smoking, avoid looking at TVs or computer screens for long periods of time, and lastly abusing medication (ironically sleeping pills as well) and alcohol. In fact it mentioned in the textbook that even if one gets a full night of sleep after consuming to much alcohol they miss out on the later stages of sleep, including REM sleep, which is when we get our deepest rest. Not only will this force us to make suboptimal decisions, make it harder to retain memory, but will also force us to want to take naps during the day when we complete important tasks. Its one of those things that's easy to say in theory but harder to do in practice, but practicing good brain habits will improve ones overall sleep experience and utility in life.
I found the section from chapter 5 about hypnosis to be very interesting. Hypnotists are people that can alter a person's thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and behaviors. In order to do this, they use a technique called the "induction method" where they calm a person down and get them into an extremely relaxed state where they are more susceptible to suggestions. I always thought that hypnosis was a load of crap but after reading the book it seems like it does actually work on some people. I remember watching an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air when I was younger where Will is hypnotized into thinking that he is a little kid whenever a bell rings. In short, hilarious antics ensue until he is brought back to the hypnotist and released from the spell that was put over him. I always knew that was ridiculous, and I believed that hypnosis had no truth behind it because the media makes it seem so farfetched. The myths covered in the book are all used by Hollywood but then the book laid out the real theories behind hypnosis and they made a lot of sense. The Sociocognitive Theory rang true with me because I don't think I could ever be hypnotized since I don't think it works that well. All of my expectations are that it wouldn't work, therefore it probably wouldn't. However, I still think that it is cool that people can be hypnotized and that it helps with getting over addictions, treating pain, and whatever else therapists use it for. I'm still curious about what is physically happening in the hypnotized person's brain and I hope that scientists can explain it someday soon.
The concept of parallel processing is very unique. I always knew that everyone saw things in life different ways but never knew the concept behind it. I think of parallel processing as the way people perceive objects and it determines the way each individual sees something through there eyes. The breakdown of parallel processing is even more unique. Parallel processing can be either bottom-up or top-down. The difference between the two is a person's mindset going certain situations. Bottom-up processing I believe gives a broader viewpoint on things. Top-down processing is close minded because your mind is already trying to create an image before the situation.
I think this concept is very important especially in psychology. When doing surveys and research, it's a lot easier to predict what people will perceive depending on the parallel processing they choose. Then if the predicted results are completely different then that gives researchers something more to look into. Top-down processing reminds me a lot of the regulations that experiments need to be considered an experiment. One of the big keys is for the subject not to have a perception when being part of research because it will then make them bias. Therefore I feel that bottom-up processing is more popular in research for psychology. Results from studies with bottom-up processing I feel would be more accurate because people are answering questions off of what that perceived as the experiment was going on. I attached photo that can be perceived to ways depending on the process that people use to look at it. I've always wondered who the first person was to create an image that involves parallel processing. I find these type of images fascinating because not all people can the images in different ways.