Final Examination

Narrative Review

Fall 2014


In the past, my practice has been to conduct a pre-exam review in class, accompanied by some illustrations, followed by a question-and-answer session.  That takes a lot of time, however -- time that might be better devoted to students' questions.  Accordingly, I now prepare written "narrative" review, prior to each exam, which will leave extra time for questions in the review session itself.  

Click here for general information about exams in this course.


The Exam

The exam is scheduled for Thursday, December 18, 2014, from 7:00 - 10:00 PM, in  245 Li Ka Shing Center.  Students with disability accommodations will receive information from me concerning arrangements for proctoring (as soon as I receive them).



The noncumulative exam will cover all lectures and required readings to date:

The cumulative portion will cover the same material plus material covered in the midterm .

There are lots of resources available for the examination, in addition to the in-class review session:

In addition, students are encouraged to post questions to the "Comments and Queries" forum in the course website on bCourses.  I will do my best to respond to them, provided that they are posted no later than noon on Monday, May 13.  Do not send questions by private Email to either me or the GSIs: we want to make sure that everybody in class has equal access to the exchanges.


Exam Construction and Scoring

The noncumulative portion of the exam will consist of 15 short-answer questions.  Roughly half will be drawn directly from the lectures, roughly half will be drawn directly from the text.  Of course, there is some overlap between lectures and readings. As a rule, I try to have at least one question from each lecture, and at least one question from each of the required readings.  Because the final exam is spread out over three hours, you will have plenty of time to answer all 15 questions.

The noncumulative exam requires only very short answers.  In no case are more than three (3) sentences required to answer a question; often, the job can be done in fewer than three sentences. 

The cumulative portion will be more of a mixed bag, but won't require very extensive writing either.

Answers should be written in ink on the exam itself.  Exams written in pencil will not eligible for regrading.  No "blue books" are required for the exam.  You will write your answers in the space provided on the exam.

The focus of my exam is on basic concepts and principles.  There are no questions about names or dates of experiments (though names and dates may appear in questions).  There are no questions about picky details.  There are no questions about specific experiments, though you should be able to recognize ideas of important philosophers and the implications of the phenomena revealed by some classic experiments.  There are no intentionally tricky questions: I want you to understand basic concepts and principles, not the exceptions to the rules.

The exam will be scored following a guide which I have prepared, and which will be posted to the course website following the exam.  The guide is just that: alternative approaches to answering a question will also be considered.  We will do our best to have grades posted within a week of the exam.  

When grades are posted, there will also be an announcement to this effect.


Coma and Anesthesia

Having discussed consciousness in general, and the nature of unconscious mental life, we move into a section of the course that is concerned with various altered states of consciousness.

Identifying an altered state of consciousness is a variant on the problem of knowledge of other minds.  If we have problems knowing what another person's state of consciousness is, we also have problems determining when his state of consciousness has been altered.  When someone who has just taken LSD says that he sees a tablespoon as a blooming rose, how do we know that's true.  In both cases, all we can do is make inferences from behavior and the situation in which it occurs.

In an important paper written at the very beginnings of the consciousness revolution in psychology, Stoyva and Kamiya (1966) argued that an altered state of consciousness could be identified by the logic of converging operations:

First, we looked at conditions where consciousness is so altered that the person isn't conscious at all.

As for coma, you should know something about how coma is defined and assessed (e.g., the Glasgow Coma Scale).  And you should be able to distinguish coma from the persistent vegetative state and the locked-in syndrome.    

You should know something about attempts to assess unconscious processing in coma and related states, and what kind of evidence supports the idea of a "minimally conscious state".  Again, the question is: "How do we know that a patient is even minimally conscious?".

You should know a little about the history of surgical anesthesia, particularly the fact that it was introduced only in the mid-19th century.  You should be able to distinguish between general anesthesia and other forms of anesthesia, such as regional anesthesia and conscious sedation.  You should know the general flow of the induction of anesthesia, and appreciate that "balanced" anesthesia involves the administration of separate agents for sedation, anesthesia, analgesia, and muscle relaxation.

You should know something about how anesthesia is assessed: clinically, in terms of anesthetic concentration (e.g., MAC), autonomic indices (e.g., PRST), and central nervous system indices (e.g., event-related potentials, EEG power spectrum, and bispectral analysis).

There is evidence of implicit memory for events during general anesthesia, though I take it as evidence for implicit perception, not implicit memory.  I didn't get to cover this, so you're not responsible for it, but there's no evidence that therapeutic suggestions delivered during surgical anesthesia have any specific effect.  Unconscious processing during surgical anesthesia is probably limited to perceptual as opposed to semantic analyses, and you'd have to be able to analyze the meaning of a suggestion to be able to respond to it.



Revonsuo's Chapter 8 has some information on anesthesia, the vegetative state, and the locked-in syndrome, but frankly not nearly as much as we covered in class.  High points here include:

I have no idea what Revonsuo means by people being "externally conscious", since consciousness is internal. But "inverse zombies" are an interesting play on the concept of zombies: if zombies can behave without being conscious, locked-in patients can be conscious without engaging in any behavior.  


Sleep and Dreams

You should know something about the physiology of sleep, especially how landmarks such as the disappearance of EEG alpha activity mark the onset of sleep, the distinctions among the various stages of sleep, and, of course, the distinction between REM and NREM (slow-wave) sleep.  

The focus in these lectures was on mental activity in sleep.  You should be able to distinguish among the various forms of sleep mentation, including hypnagogic and hypnopompic reverie, night terrors, somnambulism and somniloquy, and dreams, and how these relate to the various stages of sleep.

Wyatt found that sleep onset produced an amnesia for items presented in the minutes immediately preceding sleep onset.  You should, however, understand why there's also no evidence for sleep learning -- including even implicit memory for material presented during sleep (in apparent contrast to general anesthesia). 

More important, however, is the controversy over dreaming in Stage REM vs. NREM.  Foulkes and others have claimed that dreaming occurs in Stage REM as well as in Stage NREM, but when you look closely at the reports of dreaming, it's clear that really "dreamy" dreams are much more likely to occur in REM.  

This debate is important because it has implications for Hobson's AIM model of consciousness.  You should have some knowledge of the elements of the model -- cortical activation, input-output gating, and modulation, and their psychological and physiological correlates (alertness, perception of external stimuli, and attentive information-processing; aminergic and cholinergic neuromodulatory systems).  And you should understand how Hobson thinks the mind/brain (his term) moves around inside the three-dimensional "AIM state space" in waking and the various stages of sleep.

The AIM model is important, in turn, because of its implications for the meaning of dreams.  Freud claimed that dreams had hidden meanings, in that they symbolically represented repressed, unconscious thoughts and memories.  But Hobson's model implies -- actually, it boldly asserts -- that the content of dreams has no psychological significance, being as it is (in his view) a product of essentially random cortical activation.

Still, there is a possible middle path between Freud and Hobson.  Foulkes claims that dreams are a form of thinking -- essentially random samples of the mind of the dreamer (and he claims that dreams occur throughout the night, in both REM and NREM), and he has tried to view dreams from the perspective of both linguistics (especially syntax) and Piagetian views of development (as in his claim that pre-operational kids don't really dream).  Domhoff agrees that dreaming is an achievement marking a certain stage of cognitive development, and that dream cognition is essentially continuous with waking life (as in the continuity principle and the repetition principle).



Revonsuo's Chapter 12 focuses on the problem of defining an altered state of consciousness: Given the difficulties in defining consciousness, and in knowing whether someone is consciousness, it's also difficult to define when someone is in a state of altered consciousness.  But you should know something about these various definitional attempts.

Chapter 13 is more substantive, and covers pretty much the entire territory of sleep and drams


"Hysteria" and Hypnosis

Certain forms of psychopathology, which used to be collectively labeled "hysteria", entail disruptions in consciousness:

The dissociative disorders are "dissociative" in nature, because they impair explicit memory, largely sparing implicit memory.  For example, at least some studies show that priming transfers between "alter egos" in fugue and multiple personality.   And the conversion disorders are also "dissociative" in nature, because they impair explicit perception and largely spare implicit perception.  For example, priming occurred in a case of visual conversion disorder, despite the patient's claim not to be able to see the primes.  Thus, despite the patient's self-reported disruption in conscious awareness, tests of implicit perception and memory provide evidence of intact functioning outside of awareness.

In many ways, the phenomena of hypnosis bear a phenotypic similarity to the symptoms of the dissociative and conversion disorders.  You should know why the phenomena of hypnosis are essentially dissociative in nature.

And you should understand that the phenomena of hypnosis don't occur in everyone: there are big individual differences in hypnotizability, and you should know how these are measured by instruments such as the Stanford Scale.

Perhaps the most dramatic alteration in consciousness occurs in hypnotic analgesia, and you should know something about the research that demonstrates pain relief following hypnotic suggestion, its effects on sensory pain and suffering, comparison to other pain-challenging agents, and clinical applications..

And you should know something about how posthypnotic amnesia affects both explicit and implicit memory (as in posthypnotic amnesia); and how hypnotic blindness affects explicit and implicit perception.  

Brain-imaging studies of hypnotic analgesia and hypnotic color blindness reveal changes in brain state corresponding to suggested changes in mental state.  



Revonsuo's Chapter 14 complements the lecture treatment of hypnosis, but frankly my chapter (see below) is better. 

Kihlstrom's chapter on "Dissociative Disorders" provides considerable historical background on the dissociative disorders. 

Kihlstrom's chapter on "Consciousness in Hypnosis" provides expanded treatment of the material covered in lecture. 


Daydreaming, Absorption, and Meditation

I introduced absorption and daydreaming as "altered states" that occur to most people from time to time, in the ordinary course of everyday living.  The best way to view these states, I think, is through a framework of attention -- how attention can get intensely focused on an experience, and how it can wander.  The discussion is hampered somewhat by the absence of experimental work, except in the case of mind-wandering, which is what daydreaming is called in some parts these days.

You should know how absorption and daydreaming are defined -- in some ways, they are polar opposites: if you're absorbed, your mind can't wander from what you're absorbed in; but in some ways they share features in common: you can be deeply absorbed in your daydreams.  Absorption seems to require active involvement, while daydreaming seems to "just happen". 

Flow is related to absorption, and mind-wandering is related to daydreaming.  In contrast to absorption, there is at least some experimental work on daydreaming and mind-wandering. 

Research on daydreaming also led to the discovery of the "default mode network" in the brain.  You don't have to know the anatomical details of the network, except that the relevant structures are mostly in the medial portions of the cerebral cortex.  But you should know it's essential psychological properties: the structures in this network show increased activity when subjects are resting quietly, and decreased activity when engaged in attention-demanding tasks.  Presumably, daydreaming activates the default-mode network.

This isn't a course in comparative religion, but you should know something about the cultural and religious background for yoga and Buddhist meditation, and how their current forms have become secularized and (to some extent) commodified.

You should know the characteristics that various meditative practices seem to have in common:

Mostly, you should also know something about "de-automatization", and the evidence for a reversal of automaticity in cognition: 



Revonsuo's Chapter 15 has a nice discussion of meditation and flow.  I discussed out-of-body and near-death experiences in my earlier lecture on spiritualism and parapsychology, so much of that will be review.  Notice that most of what R. cites is anecdotal in nature: everyone talks about "runner's high", but nobody ever does any research on it (hint, hint). 


Consciousness and the Self

I didn't talk about this at all, due to the changes in the academic calendar since the last time I gave this course, so you're not responsible for it.  But for the sake of completeness, these lectures returned to subjectivity as a feature of consciousness, beginning with Block's distinction between phenomenal (P-) consciousness, access (A-) consciousness, and self-consciousness.  But reading Descartes, James, Claparede, and James, it seems that all conscious mental states involve the self, or "me-ness"  -- not least because conscious mental states are couched in the first person.  It seems that, in every conscious mental state, the self is either the agent or the patient of the action being represented, or the stimulus or experiencer of the state being represented.  Explicit memories, percepts, and the like always involve self-reference; implicit memories, percepts, and the like seem not to involve the self at all.  It's the self-reference that makes these mental states conscious.

That leads us to a consideration of what the self looks like.  From a cognitive point of view, the self may be viewed as one's mental representation of oneself -- a knowledge representation that, like other knowledge representations, can take various forms: perception-based (as in the self-image) or meaning-based (as in the self-concept).  As a declarative (as opposed to procedural) memory structure, the self contains both episodic (autobiographical) and semantic (abstract) self-knowledge.

But, as I said, I didn't get to lecture on this material, so you're not responsible for it.  If you're really interested, check out the corresponding lecture supplement -- but not until after the exam!

The Origins of Consciousness

We're conscious: How did we get it?  You should understand the differences among the phylogenetic, ontogenetic, and cultural views of development. And you should know a little of the history of the  debate over animal consciousness: Darwin vs. Descartes, Romanes vs. Morgan, Washburn vs. Watson, and Griffin.  The question of animal awareness, viewed against the continuity of evolutionary development, raises the question of whether we should ascribe consciousness to some animals as well as to humans, or deny consciousness to humans, as we deny it to animals.  

You should know how the MSR works and the logic behind it. 

Another approach to the development of consciousness is through the "theory of mind", and you should understand both what is meant by the theory of mind and how the "false belief" (FB) task bears on it.

It turns out that there's more to development than ontogeny and phylogeny.  There's also a cultural-historical aspect -- essentially, the question of whether humans in some societies, or in some historical epochs, were not conscious.  In fact, Julian Jaynes has argued that human consciousness had its origins in historical time, roughly 3000 years ago, with the establishment of large, urban civilizations.  Before, that, even humans weren't conscious -- at least, not in the way they were afterward.  By which Jaynes seems to mean that we didn't have a theory of mind -- we didn't recognize that our mental states were ours, that we had control over them, and that our mental states could differ from those of others.  Sometime about 1000 BCE, Jaynes argues, all of this changed, and we became conscious in the way that we are now.



Revonsuo's Chapter 6 doesn't have anything to do with development, but you've got to read it to finish off the book, and at least it's relevant to the question of the self and consciousness.  Most of this is a reworking of material covered in the first half of the course, so consider it a review. 

Gallup et al. take you on a nice tour of the literature on the mirror self-recognition paradigm and its results with various species of animals.  Of particular interest, I think, are their comments about the links between self-recognition and sociality.  But see their response to critiques of the MSR test, and also their take on evidence for MSR in non-human animals who aren't great apes.

Penn and Povinelli likewise provide a nice review of attempts to administer nonverbal versions of the false-beliefs test and other indices of the theory of mind to nonverbal animals (like chimpanzees).  The general thrust of their argument is that chimpanzees might pass MSR, but they don't have a theory of mind.  Note the echoes, here, of Lloyd Morgan's Canon, that we should not attribute mental activity to animals if simpler explanations will do.


Students are not responsible for the concluding lecture on "Consciousness in the Arts and Humanities".  However, you are responsible for Lodge's Thinks..., which is listed in the syllabus as a required reading.

Cumulative Portion

This part of the exam will give you an opportunity to put things together, and will necessarily include some reference to lectures and readings from the first half of the course, such as.  

So, the first thing to do is to incorporate by reference the Narrative Review for the Midterm Examination -- with the further information that you should focus more on the lectures than on the readings.

Except for Searle's The Mystery of Consciousness, which is intended to give you the flavor of the current philosophical debate over consciousness -- not least because the book shows Prof. Searle debating with a number of important figures, as he reviews their books, they respond to his reviews, and he presents rejoinders to their responses.

Many of these theorists are also covered in Revonsuo's book, which is one reason why I assign it. 

Note: On one past exam, I constructed a "matching" test in which students were asked to match particular philosophers with quotations from their work.  Some students complained about the item, but I actually like it a lot, because, in philosophy at least, individual authors have such distinctive points of view that you ought to be able to identify who's writing from what s/he has written.  So, it is possible that such a "matching" test will appear on some exam in the future.  If you've done the reading seriously, you should be able to match philosophers with their words, and that will allow you to keep track of the debate in the future.  And you'll also get the jokes in David Lodge's Thinks... 

And also Lodge's Thinks... -- which, technically, was assigned after the midterm, but which is also concerned with the two major themes of this course -- the relation between body and mind, and the possibility of achieving a third-person account of consciousness.  I have sometimes tweaked (twuck?) the noses of my colleagues in the humanities by proposing that they give multiple-choice exams in their literature courses.  Hey, I'm a psychologist, I believe in standardized testing, reliability and utility and all those other good psychometric properties.  And exams like the SAT subject tests show pretty clearly that it's possible to test both whether a student has read the assigned material, and that s/he's understood something about its content and structure, even in a multiple-choice format.


1.  Call me _____.

    a.    Ishmael

    b.    Starbuck

    c.    Bulkington

    d.    Slartibartfast

2. A major theme in Moby-Dick is:

    a.    the scope and limits of thought control.

    b.    fidelity as a code of conduct.

    c.    the individual's desire to create and destroy heroes.

    d.    the consequences of various types of behavior.

I don't know whether there will be a multiple-choice test on Thinks... on this exam, or any exam, but I'm surely tempted to try someday.

But beyond that, I'd like you to be able to grapple with the same questions about consciousness that Lodge (and his characters) treat in the novel.  What is consciousness?  How would we know whether a creature had it?  How can we objectively study it?  What difference does consciousness make for behavior?  Do Ralph and Helen mean different things when they each speak of a "third-person" account of consciousness?  What illustration would include on the Centre's mural, and why?  What has happened in the study of consciousness that Lodge missed, but might have included include.  If Lodge were to update his novel (it was first published in 2001), what advances might he have included?


Questions and Comments

As you prepare for the exam, feel free to post questions to the "Final Examination" Forum in the course website, and then click on "Post New Thread".  If you want to reply to a reply, or ask a follow-up question, click on "Reply to Thread".  If your comment or query is posted before noon on Wednesday, December 17, you'll have a response by 5:00 PM that day.


This page last revised 12/05/2014.