Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science

Eotvos University, Budapest


Oral Final Examination

Fall 2008

In the Fall of 2008 I gave an abbreviated version of this course as part of the Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science, an "education abroad" program intended for American, Canadian, Japanese, and other international students hosted by Eotvos Lorand Technical University (ELTE), in Budapest -- and one I highly recommend!

The tradition at ELTE is for oral final examinations.  To that end, I constructed a number of questions, randomized them, and then posed one question (selected without replacement) to each student in the class, questioned in random order.  Students could elect to pass on the first question chosen, but they could not return to that question once they learned of the second question.  The oral examination was conducted in a group, except that students could exercise an option to be questioned individually.  

These were the questions written for the exam:

  1. What are the characteristics of "conscious shyness", as described by Owen Flanagan?

  2. Why did behaviorists like Watson abandon mental life as the subject matter for psychology?

  3. What were William James' "Five Characters" of consciousness"

  4. What are qualia?  How do we know them when we see them?  Why is "red" a quality of visual experience but not "purple"?

  5. What determines whether an experience will be visual or auditory -- or olfactory or gustatory?

  6. What is synesthesia and how does this phenomenon bear on the neural correlates of consciousness?

  7. What was Descartes' doctrine of dualism?  How does this doctrine influence thinking about consciousness today?

  8. What is the "Cartesian impasse" and how did behaviorism propose to get us out of it?

  9. Distinguish between "type" and "token" versions of identity theory and their implications for the neural correlates of consciousness.

  10. 10.  What is a "psychosomatic" effect?  What is the relevance of such effects for the mind-body problem?

  11. What is the relevance of parapsychology to the mind-body problem?

  12. There is good evidence that hypnotic suggestion can make warts go away.  Why should we care?

  13. How is automaticity defined?  How is automaticity reflected in phenomena such as the "Stroop effect"?

  14. How does automaticity bear on the concept of conscious will?

  15. What does it mean to say that explicit and implicit memory can be dissociated?

  16. How does the distinction between repetition and semantic or conceptual priming relate to "early" vs. "late" processing theories of attention?

  17. Why does "subliminal" perception not exhaust the category of "unconscious" perception?

  18. Surgical patients who are read a list of words while under general anesthesia show priming, even though they cannot recall the words.  Does this count as evidence of implicit memory or implicit perception?  Why?

  19. How do we define an altered state of consciousness?  Give an illustration of such a definition.

  20. What are the components of balanced anesthesia?

  21. Describe two ways in which physicians monitor a patient's "depth" of "plane" of anesthesia.

  22. Repetition priming appears to be spared in some forms of general anesthesia.  Does this imply that "anesthetized" patients are really awake and aware after all?

  23. Distinguish between coma and the persistent vegetative state.  What evidence is there for a third, "minimally conscious" state?

  24. What evidence is there that mediation (in any form) induces an altered state of consciousness?

  25. Why is mirror self-recognition relevant to theories about the origins of consciousness?  On the basis of such tests, who is conscious and who is not?

  26. What is the "theory of mind", and why is it relevant to consciousness?  On the basis of the "false belief" test of the theory of mind, who is conscious and who is not?

Student responses averaged in length about five minutes.  The exam was graded on a 0-5 scale, and most students got a 4 or 5.