Psychology Retooling Institute and Seminar for the Mid-Atlantic I


Index prism I & II


Valerie Holland Chasse, M. S.
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Warren County Community College

Marc D. Henley, A. M. Ed.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Delaware County Community College

Paul Schulman, Ph. D.
Associate Professor
SUNY Institute of Technology

I.  Learning Objectives    II.  Consciousness   III. Content Guidelines
IV. Sample Activities and Assignments        V. Resources and References     VI. Contact Us

I. Learning Objectives

After discussion of this topic, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss the true nature of consciousness and describe how it has been studied by psychologists
  2. Describe the stages of sleep and identify various sleep disorders
  3. Discuss the potential functions of dreams and daydreams
  4. Identify categories of psychoactive drugs and discuss drug use
  5. Compare/contrast hypnosis and meditation

II. Consciousness

Scientific psychology started as the study of consciousness—psychologists were to observe conscious processes, just as biologists observed living organisms and astronomers observed the heavens. William James (1890), the American philosopher and psychologist, defined psychology as the "Science of Mental Life" but two years later, apparently mired in a blue funk, he wrote that psychology was a "string of raw facts; a little gossip and wrangle about opinions...but not a single law in the sense in which physics has laws, not a single proposition from which any consequence can casually be deduced....This is no science, it is only the hope of science" (1892/1948, p. 468). In 1913 John B Watson concurred with James’s assessment but Watson, who was not given to despair, proposed a solution. "Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior....The time seems to have come when psychology must discard all reference to consciousness" (p.272-273). And psychology did, for Watson, Pavlov’s and Thorndike’s studies of animal learning were the high tide that would carry psychology to a fruitful future. These men studied higher mental function outside the bog of mental life or consciousness. If Watson argued that the direct study of consciousness was unscientific, Freud argued that it was unimportant. For Freud, the conscious mind had but little effect on behavior; human goals and actions were determined by a maelstrom of conflicting emotions almost entirely out of awareness. Freud and Watson would have agreed on little beyond the futility of studying consciousness. In the half century since Watson’s call, the estuary of consciousness ebbed, but in the 1960s, when behaviorism came under attack from many directions, it began to flow again. Now, at the turn of a new century, mind and consciousness are at the flood stage. Physicists, biologists, computer scientists, philosophers, as well as psychologists, are attempting to unravel the workings of consciousness and the mind.

The fuzzy outline of consciousness is relatively easy to establish. Ask students to think of how the word is used in everyday speech. We say we are conscious when we are awake, when we are aware of what we see, or hear, or of our feelings. We know hat coffee makes us alert, that alcohol makes us giddy, and that other drugs can affect, or alter, our consciousness in a variety of ways. And we know that we are frequently, though not entirely, unaware of the causes of our behavior because they are unconscious, as Freud argued.

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III. Content Guidelines

 Day One

I. Sleep and dreams (See Activity 1)
    A. Circadian rhythms (biological clock)  (See Activity 2)
    B. Sleep stages
    C. Sleep disorders
        1. Insomnia
            a. Drug dependency
            b. Idiopathic/pseudo
            c. Treatments
        2. Narcolepsy
        3. Sleep apnea
        4. Sleepwalking/night terrors
    D. Dreams
        1. Remembering dreams
        2. Why we dream, what dreams mean
            a. Psychoanalytic view
            b. Biological
            c. Cognitive/information processing
        3. REM rebound
    E. Daydreaming
        1. Afternoon naps
        2. Daydreams can be productive (preparation) or counter-productive (distracting)
            a. Keeping a daydream diary
            b. Note ongoing themes: visual or other senses; personal or impersonal;
                are you participant or spectator; relevance to daily life; vividness

Day Two

II. Drugs and alterations of consciousness (See Activity 4)
    A. Definitions (See Huffman, Vernoy, and Vernoy for a detailed presentation of terminology)
        1. Drug abuse
        2. Addiction
        3. Psychological dependence
        4. Physical dependence
        5. Tolerance and withdrawal

Exercise: Ask class to make a list of the main effects of various drugs, like caffeine, nicotine, heroin (or morphine or codeine), and cocaine.  Then ask them what are the withdrawal effects of these drugs.  Their answers may be from their own experience or from movies or books.  In general, the withdrawal effects are the opposite of the main drug effects.  For instance, caffeine makes us alert.  If we stop drinking coffee, we become drowsy.  It also constricts blood vessels; if we stop we get headaches, which generally are caused by dilation of blood vessels.  Have the class “discover” the fact that the withdrawal effects are the opposite of the main drug effectS
    B. Five groups of psychoactive drugs (Schneider and Tarshis, 1995, pp. 160-179).
        1. Depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines)
        2. Stimulants (amphetamine, cocaine)
        3. Opiates (morphine, heroin)
        4. Psychedelics (marijuana, LSD)
        5. Antipsychotics (antischizophrenics, like chlorpromazine;
            antidepressants, like MAO inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants)

    C. Compensatory Response Theory of Drug Addiction

1. The environment controls tolerance (Seigel in Y. Israel, et al., 1983, pp. 207-46) This view argues that tolerance to drugs is classically conditioned.  The conditioned stimulus is some aspect of the environment.  The conditioned response compensates for, or neutralizes, the main effect of the drug and accounts for tolerance.  Tolerance does not occur in the absence of the conditioned stimulus.

2. Change in environment may lead to overdose death (Seigel, et al., 1982, -a great read).If you take the drug under unusual circumstances—i.e., without the conditioned stimulus—there is no tolerance and that can lead to an apparent overdose.

Exercise 1: Ask those students who have tried to give up a drug, like nicotine, about the circumstances under which they relapsed—was it an environment normally associated with the drug?

Exercise 2: Conditioning of hunger (craving)
a. Baseline: 20 minutes or so into class get students to rate hunger on a Likert scale.
b. Training: Split class; give half sugarless gum, half sugared gum each class for a month or so.
c. Test: After a month, give all students sugarless gum, get hunger rating, again 20 minutes or so into the class on the Likert scale.
d. Compare ratings of those trained on sugarless to those trained on sugared gum (sugared should feel hungrier).
e. If it works, this shows that environmental cues (room, taste) can trigger hunger (opposite of eating sugar), makes it plausible that they could also trigger drug “hunger.”  The mechanism is probably something like his: When sugar enters the blood stream, the body releases insulin, which allows the body to metabolize the sugar.  If the sugar is entering under certain environmental circumstances (i.e., is he CS), then the person uses those circumstances to anticipate the incoming sugar and releases insulin in advance (i.e., the CR).  Now if you slip him sugarless gum (same taste), the CS will trigger a CR of a release of insulin but sine there is no sugar to deal with, it will simply reduce the amount of sugar already present in the blood, leading to hunger, and maybe a craving specifically for gum.  If it doesn’t work, discuss research methodology.

Day 3

III. Biology of consciousness (Schneider and Tarshis, 1995, pp. 632-665.)
    A.. Does the brain work as a whole or are functions localized?
        Exercise: Ask students about relatives who have had strokes; relate side of paralysis to cognitive deficit.
    B. Left hemisphere and language: Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas
    C. Right hemisphere and perception: Block design and Neglect Syndrome
    D. Coordinating the Hemisphere: Role of corpus callosum
    E. Split brain studies
IV. Hypnosis and meditation (Smith, Ch. 6): Heightened suggestibility with narrowed attention
    A. Post-hypnotic amnesia
    B. Pain relief through post-hypnotic suggestion
    C. Myths
    D. Similarity of meditation to self-hypnosis
    E. The Near Death Experience as an explanation of consciousness (See Activity 5)
    F. Guided Imagery (See Activity 6)

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IV. Sample Activities and Assignments

Activity 1

In Instructor Resources to Accompany Myer’s Psychology (4th ed), there is a brief true-or-false quiz on states of consciousness which is designed to be administered prior to discussion of the topic. This instrument helps students identify misconceptions they may have about the subject matter, while simultaneously introducing the topic to them.

Activity 2

In the Critical Thinking Companion for Introductory Psychology, Halomen introduces an activity which allows students an opportunity to explore the topic of jet lag while developing their skills in experimental design. This assignment is designed to demonstrate the challenges posed by experimental research.

Activity 3

In Instructor Resources to Accompany Myer’s Psychology (4th ed), Bolt presents data from several studies exploring dream content. In addition, suggestions are given for students who may want to develop their own dream journal.

Activity 4

Instructor Resources to Accompany Myer’s Psychology (4th ed) contains two brief surveys which may be used by students to help them recognize potential signs of drug abuse. This activity can also be used for purposes of classroom discussion.

Activity 5

In the Critical Thinking Companion for Introductory Psychology, Halonen introduces students to both spiritual and physiological hypotheses to explain near death experiences. Students are invited to critically evaluate both hypotheses and to explore their own beliefs regarding this phenomenon.

Activity 6

In Mind Games, Masters and Houston present a variety of activities which may be used either within the classroom or outside the class to introduce students to guided imagery.

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Index prism I & II

 V. Resources and References

Bolt, M. (1995). Instructor resources to accompany Myer’s Psychology (4th ed). Worth Publishers: New York.

Halonen, J. (1995). The critical thinking companion for Introductory Psychology. Worth Publishers: New York.

Huffman, K., Vernoy M., and Vernoy J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed). Wiley: New York. (p. 147).

James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology.

James, W. (1892). Psychology: Briefer course.

Masters, R. and Houston, J. (1972). Mind Games. The Viking Press: New York.

Schneider, A. and Tarshis, B. (1995). Elements of physiological psychology. McGraw-Hill: New York. (pp.160-179).

Siegal, S. (1983). In Y. Israel et al. (Ed), Recent Advances in Alcohol and Drug Problems. (Vol. pp. 207-46). Plenum Press: New York.

Seigal, S. et al. (1982). Heroin overdose death: contribution of drug-associated environmental cues. Science, 436-437.

Smith, R. A. (1995). Challenging your preconceptions: thinking critically about psychology. Brooks-Cole: Pacific Grove, CA.

Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the Behaviorist views. Psychological Review, 20, 158-177.

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This Module was contributed by:
For further information, contact the following:

Valerie Holland Chasse
fax: (908) 689-8032

Marc D. Henley
fax: (610) 359-5343

Paul Schulman
fax: (315) 792-7305

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Should you find a problem with this page (links, not content) please email me   Mary Kay