By consciousness, we mean awareness of phenomena and events within and out- side of ourselves. Consciousness encompasses perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. It can vary in quality our subjective experiences can range from subdued and ordinary to exciting and intense and in the accuracy with which we perceive our environment. In our normal waking state, we perceive our surroundings more or less accurately, but when we dream or daydream, we perceive things that are not really present. And people in drug-induced states may experience a distorted world.
A central aspect of consciousness is attention. We focus on some things while ignoring others. Most of us are highly aware of our own movements or mental activities when we are learning a new skill, whether it is skiing or solving algebra problems. As we master the skill, however, the movements and thought processes that go into it become increasingly automatic.
As a result, we perform most of our routine activities getting dressed, descending stairs, speaking our native language quite automatically and almost unconsciously. Only when we make a special effort to focus our attention for example, on the movements of our legs when we walk—are we fully conscious of our well-learned behaviors. The Spotlight describes some research on what happens when we deliberately try not to allow a particular thought into consciousness.
What Is Consciousness;And Its Importance In Our Life
Consciousness also plays a role in the choices we make. Many of our choices are deliberate. We speak of making a “conscious decision” to exercise or to register for a particular class. But other choices are less intentional and thus involve less conscious thought. At the supermarket, for example, we often select particular brands automatically, out of habit.
Everyday Consciousness Experience.
Frank is driving to a job interview. As he weaves in and out of the early morning traffic, he thinks about how important this job is. For a brief moment, he imagines that he gets the job. The thought is gone as quickly as it came, and if you asked Frank about it later he would probably say he had no memory of it. All that remains of this thought is a feeling of satisfaction and happiness, a feeling that is quickly replaced by a sense of anxiety. An image begins to form in Frank’s mind of the interviewer making fun of him and virtually laughing him out of the office.
Frank flashes back to the first grade, when his teacher ridiculed him in front of the whole class. Suddenly, a child runs into the street, and Frank’s thoughts about the job interview and school are brought to an abrupt halt as he focuses on hitting the brakes and avoiding the child. Frank’s grab-bag of thoughts is typical of our everyday experience. As we move through a day, our activities and perceptions of our surroundings are accompanied by a private stream of consciousness consisting of our own ongoing thoughts, images, and emotions.Researchers have studied the stream of consciousness by equipping people with beepers and asking them to record whatever is on their minds at the random moments when the beeper sounds.