AP Psych Chapter 04: Consciousness



Consciousness – a person’s awareness of everything that is going on around him or her at any given moment.

Waking consciousness – state in which thoughts, feelings, and sensations are clear, organized, and the person feels alert.

Controlled processes are activities that require full awareness.  This is the most alert state of consciousness.  Example: playing a sport.

Automatic processes are activities that require little awareness and attention.  People can usually do other things during these processes.

Altered state of consciousness – state in which there is a shift in the quality or pattern of mental activity as compared to waking consciousness.  Usually occur during medication, through drugs, or hypnosis and allow a person to reach a state of awareness that differs from the norm.

Sleep and Dreams

Necessity of Sleep

Circadian rhythm – a cycle of bodily rhythm that occurs over a 24-hour period.  It is programmed to regulate physiological responses within a time period of 24-25 hours.  It regulates sleep.  Light plays a large factor in determining this rhythm.

  • “circa” – about
  • “diem” – day

Internal timing device is like a stopwatch inside us that allows us to gauge time through seconds, minutes, and hours. Body operates under the assumption there are 25 hours in a day.

Hypothalamus – tiny section of the brain that influences the glandular system.

  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus – deep within the hypothalamus; the internal clock that tells people when to wake up and when to fall asleep.
    • Tells pineal gland to secrete melatonin, which makes a person feel sleepy.

Microsleeps – brief sidesteps into sleep lasting only a few seconds.

Sleep deprivation – any significant loss of sleep, resulting in problems in concentration and irritability.

  • It has little effect on the heart rate, blood pressure, and hormones.  It does affect the immune system the hardest.  People, who get less sleep, get sick more often.  They find it hard to concentrate and can hallucinate.
  • 11 days (264 hours) is the record for the longest a person has gone without sleep.
  • Jet lag refers to a state experienced by travelers in which the internal circadian rhythm is not in sync with the external clock in a new location.  Fatigue, disorientation, and lack of concentration are marks of it.

Theories on sleep:

  • Adaptive theory – theory of sleep proposing that animals and humans evolved sleep patterns to avoid predators by sleeping when predators are most active.
  • Restorative theory – theory of sleep proposing that sleep is necessary to the physical health of the body and serves to replenish chemicals and repair cellular damage.  Sleep is a restorative process.  The brain needs sleep to grow, repair the immune system, and maintain mood.


Brain Wave Patterns

Electroencephalograph (EEG) – allows scientists to see the brain wave activity as a person passes through the various stages of sleep and to determine what type of sleep the person has entered.

  • Alpha waves – brain waves that indicate a state of relaxation or light sleep.
  • Theta waves – brain waves indicating the early stages of sleep.
  • Delta waves – long, slow waves that indicate the deepest stage of sleep.


Stages of Sleep

Rapid eye movement (REM) – stage of sleep in which the eyes move rapidly under the eyelids and the person is typically experiencing a dream.

NREM (non-REM) sleep – any of the stages of sleep that do not include REM.

Non-REM Stage One – transition from wakefulness to sleep and last 1-7 minutes.  Unresponsive to stimuli and drifting thoughts.  It is light sleep and people may experience:

  • hypnagogic images – vivid visual events.
  • hypnic jerk – knees, legs, or whole body jerks.

Non-REM Stage Two – sleep spindles (brief bursts of activity only lasting a second or two).  Marks the beginning of what we know as sleep.

Non-REM Stages Three and Four – delta waves pronounced.  Stage four is the deepest level of sleep and is the most difficult to wake a person from.

  • Deep sleep – when 50%+ of waves are delta waves.


REM Sleep and Dreaming

REM sleep is paradoxical sleep (high level of brain activity).  It makes up 20% of sleep time.

  • REM occur 5-6 times a night and last about 15-45 minutes with intervals of 30-90 minutes in between.
  • Brain waves during REM sleep are similar to if they were awake.
  • Essentially paralyzed during REM sleep so we can’t “act out” our dreams.

If wakened during REM sleep, almost always report a dream.

REM rebound – increased amounts of REM sleep after being deprived of REM sleep on earlier nights.

REM behavior disorder – a rare disorder in which the mechanism that blocks the movement of the voluntary muscles fails, allowing the person to thrash around and even get up and act out nightmares.


Stage Four Sleep Disorders

Sleepwalking (somnambulism) – occurring during deep sleep, an episode of moving around or walking around in one’s sleep.

Night terrors – relatively rare disorder in which the person experiences extreme fear and screams or runs around during deep sleep without waking fully.

Nightmares – bad dreams occurring during REM sleep.


Problems During Sleep

Insomnia – the inability to get to sleep, stay asleep, or get a good quality of sleep.  Usually suffer fatigue, find it hard to concentrate, and have a lack of well-being.  Two possible causes are an overload of stress or drastic changes in sleep schedule regularly.

Sleep apnea – is while a person is sleeping he or she stops breathing for 10 seconds or more up to 500 times a night.  People who suffer from this are exhausted the next day.  It increases if a person snores or drinks.  The treatment includes placing a ball on the back so a person can’t sleep on their back.  Mouth devices that help breathing are also used.  Continuous positive airway pressure device.

Narcolepsy – sleep disorder in which a person falls immediately into REM sleep during the day without warning.  They are usually followed by periods of brief REM sleep.  They can fall asleep anywhere, even while driving a car.  Drugs are often prescribed.

Cataplexy – sudden loss of muscle tone.



Extension of waking life says that dreams reflect the same thoughts, fears, concerns, problems, and emotions present when we are awake.  People who suffer traumatic, emotional situations have nightmares.  Dreams represent another source of information.

Freud – dreams as wish fulfillment.  He said we have “censors” that protect us from realizing threatening and unconscious desires and wishes (especially sex and aggression).  To protect us from threatening thoughts the “censors” transform our secret, guilt-ridden desires into harmless symbols that appear in our dreams.  They don’t bother our conscious or sleep.  The job of the therapist then is to discover the hidden meanings.

  • Manifest content – the actual dream itself.
  • Latent content – the true, hidden meaning of a dream.

Activation-synthesis hypothesis – explanation that states that dreams are created by the higher centers of the cortex to explain the activation by the brain stem of cortical cells during REM sleep periods.  There is no need to interpret dreams because they are meaningless.

Activation-information-mode model (AIM) – revised version of the activation-synthesis explanation of dreams in which information that is accessed during waking hours can have an influence on the synthesis of dreams.



Hypnosis – state of consciousness in which the person is especially susceptible to suggestion.

Four Elements of Hypnosis:

  • The hypnotist tells the person to focus on what is being said.
  • The person is told to relax and feel tired.
  • The hypnotist tells the person to “let go” and accept suggestions easily.
  • The person is told to use vivid imagination.


Theories of Hypnosis

Hypnosis as dissociation – hypnosis works only in a person’s immediate consciousness, while a hidden “observer” remained aware of all that was going on.

Social-cognitive theory of hypnosis – theory that assumes that people who are hypnotized are not in an altered state but are merely playing the role expected of them in the situation.

Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive drugs – drugs that alter thinking, perception, and memory.  Contains chemicals that affect the nervous system and may result in altered consciousness, influence the way we perceive and sense things, modify feelings, mood, thoughts, and emotions.  It can be legal like coffee or illegal like cocaine.

Physical Dependence

  • Tolerance – more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect.
  • Withdrawal – physical symptoms that can include nausea, pain, tremors, crankiness, and high blood pressure, resulting from a lack of an addictive drug in the body systems.

Psychological dependence – the feeling that a drug is needed to continue a feeling of emotional or psychological well-being.



Stimulants – drugs that increase the functioning of the nervous system.  It increases activity in the central nervous system, which leads to heightened alertness and euphoria.  Coke and amphetamines are powerful because they produce a strong effect with a little dose.

  • Amphetamines – drugs that are synthesized (made in labs) rather than found in nature.
  • Methamphetamines are like amphetamines but can be smoked or snorted (speed, crank, and crystal meth).  They cause people to get high almost instantly.  It increases blood pressure, heart rate, increases energy, and changes mood.
  • Cocaine – natural drug; produces euphoria, energy, power, and pleasure.
  • Nicotine – active ingredient in tobacco.  It is a  stimulant that produces arousal but then produces calm.  You can be addicted and also have withdrawal symptoms. Programs and patches can be effective in helping people quit.
  • Caffeine – the stimulant found in coffee, tea, most sodas, chocolate, and even many over-the-counter drugs.  Its effects include feelings of alertness, decreased fatigue/drowsiness, and improved reaction time



Depressants – drugs that decrease the functioning of the nervous system.

  • Barbituates – depressant drugs that have a sedative effect.
  • Benzodiazepines – drugs that lower anxiety and reduce stress.



Alcohol – the chemical resulting from fermentation or distillation of various kinds of vegetable matter.

  • Often confused as a stimulant but actually a depressant on CNS.  It is a psychoactive drug and also a depressant (depresses the nervous system).  It is a stimulant in the beginning but later depresses the body psychologically and physically.
  • Blood alcohol content (BAC) – 3-4 drinks in one hour can equal a BAC of .05-.08 which is considered drunk.



Narcotics – a class of opium-related drugs that suppress the sensation of pain by binding to and stimulating the nervous system’s natural receptor sites for endorphins.

  • Opium – substance derived from the opium poppy from which all narcotic drugs are derived.
  • Morphine – narcotic drug derived from opium, used to treat severe pain.
  • Heroin – narcotic drug derived from opium that is extremely addictive.



Psychogenic drugs – drugs including hallucinogens and marijuana that produce hallucinations or increased feelings of relaxation and intoxication.

  • Hallucinogens – drugs that cause false sensory messages, altering the perception of reality.
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) – powerful synthetic hallucinogen.  LSD was popular in the 1960s.  It produces visual hallucinations, distortions, effects sensory awareness, and can cause intense psychological feelings.  It last 8-10 hours and has no addictive side effects.
  • PCP – synthesized drug now used as an animal tranquilizer that can cause stimulant, depressant, narcotic, or hallucinogenic effects.
  • MDMA (Ecstasy or X) – designer drug that can have both stimulant and hallucinatory effects.  Ecstasy is a hallucinogen and stimulant.  It changes visual perception, awareness of emotions, feelings of intimacy, and the inability to interact.  Some consider it an aphrodisiac.
  • Stimulatory hallucinogenics – drugs that produce a mixture of psychomotor stimulant and hallucinogenic effects.
  • Mescaline – natural hallucinogen derived from the peyote cactus buttons.
  • Psilocybin – natural hallucinogen found in certain mushrooms.



Marijuana (pot or weed) – mild hallucinogen derived from the leaves and flowers of a particular type of hemp plant.

Drug Classification Common Name Main Effects Adverse Effects
Alcohol Beer, wine, spirits Relaxation Alcoholism, health problems, depression, increased risk of accidents, death
Barbiturates (Tranquilizers) Nembutal, Seconal Addiction, brain damage, death
Amphetamines Methamphetamine, speed, Ritalin, Dexedine Stimulation, excitement Risk of addiction, stroke, fatal heart problems, psychosis
Cocaine Cocaine, crack Risk of addiction, stroke, fatal heart problems, psychosis
Nicotine  Tobacco  Addiction, cancer
 Caffeine  Coffee, tea  Caffeinism, high blood pressure
Narcotics (Opiates)
Morphine, heroin Euphoria Addiction, death
Marijuana, hashish, LSD, Ecstasy Distorted consciousness, altered perception Possible permanent memory problems, bad “trips,” suicide, overdose, and death