Type of psychology: Consciousness

Fields of study: Cognitive processes; sleep; thought

Consciousness refers to a number of phenomena, including the waking state; experience; and the possession of any mental state. The phenomena of self-consciousness include proneness to embarrassment in social settings; the ability to detect one's own sensations and recall one's recent actions; self-recognition; awareness ofawareness; and self-knowledge in the broadest sense.

Key concepts

• alternate state of consciousness

• developmental aspects of consciousness

• evolution of consciousness

• history of consciousness study

Many scientists have ignored the phenomena associated with consciousness because they deem it inappropriate for empirical investigation. However, there is clear evidence that this position is changing. Researchers in the fields of psychology, neurobiology, philosophy, cognitive science, physics, medicine, anthropology, mathematics, molecular biology, and art are now addressing major issues relating to consciousness. These researchers are asking such questions as what constitutes consciousness, whether it is possible to explain subjective experience in physical terms, how scientific methods can best be applied to the study of consciousness, and the neural correlates of consciousness.

Moreover, new methods of brain imaging have helped clarify the nature and mechanisms of consciousness, leading to better understanding of the relationship between conscious and unconscious processes in perception, memory, learning, and other domains. These and other questions have led to a growing interest in consciousness studies, including investigations of properties of conscious experience in specific domains (such as vision, emotion, and metacognition) and a better understanding of disorders and unusual forms of consciousness, as found in blindsight, synesthesia, and other syndromes.

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