How Does Unconscious Differ From Consciousness? The QUESTION: How Does Unconscious Differ From Consciousness ? Consciousness and unconscious are two psychological terms that are commonly used in this field of study. Their importances mainly appear when psychologists deal with their patients because they will surely think about these two terms. To understand these two terms we must know their definitions. This step can enable us to recognize the difference between them. Consciousness is a psychological condition defined by the English philosopher John Locke as the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind. While unconscious in psychology is the aspect of mental life that is separated from immediate consciousness and is not subject to recall at will. The history of consciousness is interesting because it was recently known just in the early 19th century the concept was variously considered. Some philosophers regarded it as a kind of substance, or mental stuff, quite different from the material substance of the physical world. Others thought of it as an attribute characterized by sensation and voluntary movement, which separated animals and men from lower forms of life and also described the difference between the normal waking state of animals and men and their condition when asleep, in a coma, or under anesthesia, the latter condition was described as unconsciousness.
Other descriptions included an analysis of consciousness as a form of relationship or act of the mind toward objects in nature, and a view that consciousness was a continuous field or stream of essentially mental sense data, roughly similar to the ideas of earlier empirical philosophers. The method employed by most early writers in observing consciousness was introspection looking within one’s own mind to discover the laws of its operation. The limitations of the method became apparent when it was found that because of differing preconceptions, trained observers in the laboratory often could not agree on fundamental observations. The failure of introspection to reveal consistent laws led to the rejection of all mental states as proper subjects of scientific study. In behaviorist psychology, derived primarily from work of the American psychologist John B.
Watson in the early 1900s, the concept of consciousness was irrelevant to the objective investigation of human behavior and was doctrinally ignored in research. Neobehaviourists, however, adopted a more liberal posture toward mentalistic states such as consciousness. Neurophysiological mechanisms that consciousness depends on the function of the brain has been known from ancient times. Although detailed understanding of the neural mechanisms of consciousness has not been achieved, correlations between states of consciousness and functions of the brain are possible. Levels of consciousness in terms of levels of alertness or responsiveness are correlated with patterns of electrical activity of the brain waves recorded by an electroencephalograph. During wide-awake consciousness the pattern of brain waves consists of rapid irregular waves of low amplitude or voltage.
In contrast, during sleep, when consciousness can be said to be minimal, the brain waves are much slower and of greater amplitude, often coming in periodic bursts of slow waxing and waning amplitude. Both behavioral levels of consciousness and the correlated patterns of electrical activity are related to the function of a part of the brainstem called the reticular formation. Electrical stimulation of the ascending reticular systems arouses a sleeping cat to alert consciousness and simultaneously activates its brain waves to the waking pattern. It was once supposed that the neurophysiological mechanisms subserving consciousness and the higher mental processes must reside in the cortex. It is more likely, however, that the cortex serves the more specialized functions of integrating patterns of sensory experience and organizing motor patterns and that the ascending reticular system represents the neural structures most critically related to consciousness.
The brainstem reticular formation should not, however, be called the seat of consciousness. It represents an integrative focus, functioning through its widespread interconnections with the cortex and other regions of the brain. Unconscious also called Subconscious, the complex of mental activities within an individual that proceed without his awareness. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, stated that such unconscious processes may affect a person’s behavior even though he cannot report on them. Freud and his followers felt that dreams and slips of the tongue were really concealed examples of unconscious content too threatening to be confronted directly. Some theorists denied the role of unconscious processes, defining psychology as the study of conscious states.
Yet, the existence of unconscious mental activities seems well established and continues to be an important concept in modern psychiatry. Freud distinguished among different levels of consciousness. Activities within the immediate field of awareness he termed conscious; e.g., reading this article is a conscious activity. The retention of data easily brought to awareness is a preconscious activity; for example, one may not be thinking of his address but readily recalls it when asked. Data that cannot be recalled with effort at a specific time but that later may be remembered are retained on an unconscious level. For example, under ordinary conditions a person may be unconscious of ever having been locked in a closet as a child; yet under hypnosis he may recall the experience vividly.
Because one’s experiences cannot be observed directly by another efforts to study these levels of awareness objectively are based on inference; i.e., at most, the investigator can say only that another individual behaves as if he were unconscious or as if he were conscious. Efforts to interpret the origin and significance of unconscious activities lean heavily on psychoanalytic theory developed by Freud and his followers. For example, the origin of many neurotic symptoms is held to depend on conflicts that have been removed from consciousness through a process called repression. As knowledge of psychophysiological function grows, many psychoanalytic ideas are seen to be related to activities of the central nervous system. That the physiological foundation of memory may rest in chemical changes occurring within brain cells has been inferred from clinical observations that: (1) direct stimulation of the surface of the brain (the cortex) while the patient is conscious on the operating table during …