University of California, Berkeley

Department of Psychology


Psychology 129 / Cognitive Science 102

Scientific Approaches to Consciousness

Spring 2013


Final Examination

Scoring Guide


The printed version of the exam inadvertently omitted two 6-point items from the cumulative portion (my bad!). I corrected my error by giving everyone 12 points for free. On the initial scoring of the exam (including the 12 points), performance was quite reasonable: with an average score of 72.86 (standard deviation = 12.55), corresponding to 73%. Psychometric analysis yielded a pretty decent reliability (Cronbach's alpha) of .85.

The exam items were worth varying numbers of points, so for purposes of statistical analysis I calculated a percentage score for each item. The average item score, computed as a percentage of the points available for that item, was 69% (SD= 18%).

Outliers were identified as items that had a pecentage score less than 2 standard deviations below the mean. Only Item #22 met this criterion (M = 19%). Students may have simply blown this item off, but we do these statistical analyses to make objective judgments, so I gave everyone full credit for this item.

No item had a poor item-to-total correlation (r < .20), so no further corrections were necessary.

Rescoring Item #22 raised the average exam score to 74.49 (SD = 12.32) -- which is pretty much what you'd expect, just by doubling the mean score on the Midterm Exam (2 x 36.74 = 73.48).The median score was 76. The figure shows the distribution of scores.

This year, the campus initiated a new policy, whereby a course's final exam is normally held in its regular classroom. There were 139 students in the class, and 141 seats in Cory 277 -- which would have made for extremely close quarters. I order to increase the comfort leel in the room, I allowed some students, who had done exceptionally well on the Midterm, to waive the final exam and receive an estimated Final Exam score equivalent to double their Midterm score. For the remaining students, I compared their actual Final Exam score to their estimated score, and entered whichever was the larger. This increased the Final Exam score for about 1/3 of the students who actually took the Final Exam.


The Final Exam scores entered into the bSpace gradebook reflect both the rescoring of Item #22 and the substitution, where appropriate, of estimated for actual Final Exam scores.

Next step is the assignment of letter grades. I will announce these when they have been entered into the bSpace gradebook. In the meantime, if you are trying to estimate your own letter grade, remember that we go by points, not percents.


Write your name at the top of every page. 

Please indicate your Discussion Section # (or time, or GSI) here:_____________.


And please sign the UC Berkeley Honor Pledge:

On my honor, I have neither given nor received assistance in the taking of this exam.


Write your answers in ink.  Answers written in pencil will not be eligible for regarding.  Write legibly, or we won’t be able to appreciate how wonderful your answers are. 


Noncumulative Portion

Answer the following 15 questions.  Each question is worth 2-4 points, so that this portion of the exam totals 50 points.  Do not provide long-winded answers.  You have approximately 3 minutes, on average, for each question, and we are grading accordingly.  Use only the space provided for your answer.  Just a few sentences will do – typically, no more than four.  Get right to the point. 


Part 1: Anesthesia and Coma 

1.  How do we test for conscious activity in the vegetative state and the minimally conscious state, and what are the typical results?  [3 points]

Mean Score = 2.52; Item-to-Total r = .33. We ask the patient to engage in a spatial imagery task, and record brain activity in specific regions of interest via EEG or fMRI.  Such tests give evidence of voluntary brain activity in a minority of patients in both conditions.  [Anesthesia and Coma.]


2.  Compare and contrast MAC, PRST, and bispectral analysis as measures of the depth of general anesthesia [4 points].

Mean = 2.99; r = .58. Minimum Alveolar Concentration measures the amount of anesthetic in the patient’s lungs, and therefore isn’t a direct measure of consciousness at all.  The combination of blood Pressure, Heart Rate, Sweating, and secretion of Tears measures the activity of the autonomic nervous system.  Bispectral analysis (BIS) makes use of various derivatives of the EEG, and thus provides the most direct measurement of consciousness.  [Anesthesia and Coma.


3. How does the locked-in syndrome differ from the vegetative state?  [3 points]

2.89; .45. Patients in the vegetative state are unresponsive to the external environment (VS patients who show voluntary brain activity are reclassified into the minimally conscious state).  Patients with the locked-in syndrome show a normal distribution of brain metabolic activity, and can make voluntary behavioral responses to commands, and answer questions, by means of eye movements.  [Revonsuo chapter 8].


Part 2: Sleep and Dreams

4.  What possibility is there for learning during sleep? [4 points]

3.15; .65. If “sleep” is defined by the disappearance of alpha activity in the EEG, then, as Simon & Emmons concluded, “Sleep learning is possible, to the extent that the subject stays awake”.  Most experiments on sleep learning have employed explicit memory paradigms.  The available evidence shows no implicit memory for material presented during sleep, either, though the jury is still out on repetition as opposed to semantic priming.  [Sleep and Dreams]


5.  What are the elements of Hobson’s AIM model of consciousness, and what are the consequences of a shift in the ‘M” factor? [4 points]

3.11; .53. “A” stands for cortical activation, and affects the subject’s state of alertness;  “I” stands for input-output gating, which controls whether the source of mental activity is external sensory stimulation or internal memory.  “M” stands for neuromodulatory balance, and affects the quantity and quality of information processing.  The shift from aminergic to cholinergic neural systems affects attention and information processing, such that low levels of aminergic activity during REM result in poor memory for dreams.  [Sleep and Dreams]


6.  What is the relationship between sleepwalking and REM sleep behavior disorder? [2 points]

1.35; .23. Sleepwalking occurs in NREM or slow-wave sleep, because REM sleep typically involves relaxation (paralysis) of the skeletal musculature.  REM sleep behavior disorder (“dreamwalking”) is a disorder of REM sleep, in which this muscle relaxation fails to occur, so that a nightmare or other “bad dream” is accompanied by violent movements.  [Revonsuo Chapter 13]


Part 3: “Hysteria” and Hypnosis

7.  In what way do the dissociative and conversion disorders of “hysteria” affect consciousness?  [4 points]. 

3.05; .51. Classical “hysteria” involves pseudoneurological symptoms in the absence of any demonstrable brain insult, injury, or disease.  Dissociative (psychogenic) amnesia affects episodic memory; dissociative (psychogenic) fugue affects episodic memory and also identity; dissociative identity (multiple personality) disorder involves a shifting among “alter egos” with corresponding changes in memory and identity.  Conversion disorders such as psychogenic blindness and deafness affect sensation and perception; other conversion disorders, such as psychogenic paralysis, affect voluntary motor movements.  In all these syndromes, the symptoms impair explicit expressions of memory and perception, but spare implicit expressions.  [“Hysteria” and Hypnosis; Kihlstrom chapter on Dissociative Disorders]


8.  What are the effects of hypnosis on pain? [3 points]

2.82; .52. Hypnotic analgesia can have large effects on the experience of pain, as demonstrated in both laboratory and clinical studies – especially for subjects and patients who are highly hypnotizable.  The analgesia affects both the “sensory” and “suffering” components of pain.  Although hypnosis can have effects sufficient to serve as the sole analgesic agent for major surgery, its more appropriate clinical use is as an adjunct to chemical analgesics.  [“Hysteria” and Hypnosis; Kihlstrom chapter on Consciousness in Hypnosis]


9.  In posthypnotic suggestion, the subject appears to respond automatically to a pre-arranged cue.  Comment.  [3 points]

1.05; .34. This is true, but appearances can be deceiving.  Execution of a posthypnotic suggestion varies with the situational context in which it is tested.  And posthypnotic behavior interferes with other ongoing activities, indicating that it consumes cognitive capacity.  Therefore, posthypnotic suggestion does not meet two of the canonical criteria for automaticity: inevitable evocation and efficient execution.  [“Hysteria” and Hypnosis; Kihlstrom chapter on Consciousness in Hypnosis]


Part 4: Daydreaming, Absorption, and Meditation

10.  How does “flow” differ from “mindwandering”?  [3 points]

2.22; .39. Like night and day.  Flow is a state of high “absorption” in which people become so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; it has reward properties, in that people will engage in that activity at the expense of other things.  Mindwandering, by contrast, is similar to daydreaming, in which a subject’s attention is distracted from the task at hand, toward one’s own internal thoughts and fantasies.  Absorption is both task-related and stimulus-dependent; mindwandering is both task-unrelated and stimulus-independent.  [Absorption, Daydreaming, and Meditation; Revonsuo Chapter 15]


11.  What is the significance of alpha activity in Yoga and Zen meditation? [4 points]

2.46; .48. The density of low-frequency, high-voltage alpha activity in the EEG is increased during meditation, though to some extent this may be an artifact of eye closure, or the fact that the meditator is not engaged in visual activity.  More interesting, is the claim that yogis do not show the alpha-blocking orienting response to surprising stimuli, and that Zen masters don’t show habituation of alpha-blocking to repeated stimulation.  However, these possible expressions of “de-automatization” have not yet been independently replicated.  [Absorption, Daydreaming, and Meditation; Revonsuo Chapter 15]


12.  What are Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs), and how do they bear on dualism and materialism? [3 points]

2.34; .32. In the OBE, a person feels disembodied, and sees his or her own body from a distanced, elevated perspective.  OBEs suggest, consistent with substance dualism, that the mind can be separated from the body.  However, OBEs appear to be associated with brain abnormalities located at the temporo-parietal junction, perhaps leading to a failure to bind one’s body image with one’s visuo-spatial representation of the external world – a purely materialistic explanation.  [Revonsuo Chapter 15]


Part 5: Origins of Consciousness

13.  What does the “false-belief test” tell us about the ontogenetic development of consciousness”  [4 points].

2.38; .54. Passing the false-belief test shows that the child’s beliefs are representations about the external world that may be true or false, and may differ from those of other people.  It represents a kind of “meta-consciousness”, or reflective consciousness.  Children younger than 4 or 5 years of age fail the FBT, suggesting that they have not yet acquired this aspect of consciousness.  However, nonverbal versions of the FBT are passed by children as young as 15 months, pushing the origins of this aspect of consciousness back into infancy  -- even before the typical infant passes mirror self-recognition.  [Origins of Consciousness]


14.  What can we say for sure about consciousness in nonhuman animals, based on laboratory tests?  [3 points]

1.82; .40. Some animals, particularly primates and some other mammalian species, appear to have at least the rudiments of consciousness.  But only chimpanzees and orangutans clearly pass mirror self-recognition – and only a minority of chimpanzees at that.  And neither chimpanzees nor orangutans perform very well on nonverbal tests of the theory of mind that are passed by a majority of human 2- and 3-year-olds.  Perhaps laboratory tests that more adequately represent the animals’ natural behavioral ecology will reveal levels of consciousness that our current paradigms miss.  [Origins of Consciousness]


15.  What can we say about consciousness in split-brain patients?  [3 points]

1.53; .52. Based on special laboratory tests, it is possible to argue that the right hemisphere can be conscious of stimuli of which the left hemisphere is ignorant, and vice-versa.  Some investigators have gone so far as to suggest that the right hemisphere is unconscious, and the left hemisphere functions as a sort of conscious interpreter of the experiences that are accessible to it.  Other theorists argue that phenomenal consciousness can be divided, in split-brain patients, but that reflective consciousness and self-awareness remain intact – precisely because these are left-brain functions.  [Revonsuo chapter 6]


Cumulative Portion

Answer each of the following 7 questions, which are worth six (6) points each -- except for the last one, which is worth two (2) points, to bring this portion of the exam up to 50 points.  There is no choice.  Your answers can be more expansive than in the noncumulative portion, as appropriate, but they should still be very brief.  You have approximately six (6) minutes, on average, for each question, and we are grading accordingly.  Of course, you have a full three hours to complete this two-hour exam, so you can take more time if you wish.  But again, use only the space provided for your answer.  For some questions, just a single paragraph will do.

16.  What are “qualia” and how would we know them if we saw them?  [6 points]

5.47; .52. Qualia are the basic qualities of conscious experience – “what it’s like” to be conscious of something.  They seem difficult to analyze objectively precisely because they are ineffable, private, and directly apprehended.  However, they are also intrinsic, meaning unanalyzable, and irreducible, which suggests a method for identifying them.  For example, the structuralists employed introspection to identify the elementary building-blocks of complex sensory experiences.  Taking the primary colors as a model, we would expect that the physical mixture of primary qualities would yield all other qualities; that there would be a unique neural pathway for each primary quality; that primary qualities would be monolexemic in natural language; that primary qualities would label basic categories represented in most languages; and that the labels of primary qualities would not refer to any object.  [Introspection]


17.  What is automaticity and how do automatic processes bear on the problem of free will. [6 points]

5.34; .40. Automatic mental processes are inevitably evoked by an appropriate stimulus, incorrigibly completed once evoked, consume few or no cognitive resources, and interfere minimally with other ongoing cognitive processes; they are unconscious in the strict sense of the term.  To the extent that human experience, thought, and action are dominated by automatic processes, then we do not have conscious, voluntary control over what we think and do.  But studies (such as those using Jacoby’s process-dissociation paradigm) comparing the effect of automatic and controlled processes on task performance indicate that, under ordinary conditions, automatic processes do not dominate controlled processes.  This leaves plenty of room for deliberate, conscious control over what we think and do. [Attention and Automaticity]


18.  Why, according to Searle, does the mind-body problem appear so difficult to solve? Briefly summarize three of Searle’s arguments.  [6 points]

3.86; .50. Any of the following will do, up to 2 points each, depending on how well the student elaborates on the basics [Searle:  This list is gleaned from Chapter 1 of the Mystery of Consciousness; students can also abstract similar points from the individual reviews]:

a.  First and foremost, there is the language of the mind-body problem itself, rooted in Cartesian dualism – a distinction between mind and body that suggests that there is no causal connection between brain and consciousness. 

b.  Even for materialists, there is the Cartesian distinction between mind and body to begin with, which suggests We generally assume that consciousness is caused by the brain, but the brain is enormously complex, with 10 billion neurons and perhaps a thousand times that many synaptic connections among them. 

c.  And the very problem of defining consciousness, and characterizing various states of consciousness, seems daunting.

d.  And just when you resolve to abandon dualism, the idea that brain processes are causes and consciousness is an effect seems to return you to dualism, via “the mistaken notion that causes and effects are discrete events ordered sequentially in time”.

e.  We don’t have a good idea of how brain processes could cause qualitative mental states, which leads us to think that maybe they don’t.

f.  The appeal of the computer metaphor of the mind, which discounts consciousness in favor of information-processing functions that manipulate symbolic representations.

g. Confusion between observer-independent features of the world, which exist regardless of what anyone thinks, and observer-dependent features, which are the products of conscious mental activity.  In an interesting twist, Searle argues that “information” is observer-relative, because symbols exist only relative to the mind of an observer; and consciousness is observer-independent, because my mental states are mine, no matter what anyone else thinks.

h. Excessive reliance on “Strong Artificial Intelligence”: because symbolic computational processes always depend on a human interpretation, these same computational processes can’t cause conscious mental state.


19.  How can we define an altered state of consciousness (ASC)?  [6 points]

3.43; .41. First, an ASC entails a significant change in the overall pattern of subjective experience from a baseline “normal” state of consciousness.  This change should be recognized by the subject as such, at the level of reflective consciousness.  Alternatively, an ASC may be defined as a change in the content of experience of the real world, whether we recognize it or not.  An ASC can also be identified by the convergence of an induction technique, reported changes in subjective experience, correlated changes in behavior, or correlated changes in physiological state. [Kihlstrom “Hypnosis” article and Revonsuo, Chapter 12]


20.  If you were Helen, what idea, image, or thought experiment would you give to your creative-writing students as the basis of a short story?  Why would this particular idea appeal to you, and what do you hope you (and the students) would learn from it? 

Give 2 points for the image.  Any relevant image, plausibly defended, will do -- except for the following, which Helen already assigned: 

Then give another 2 points for the “appeal”, and another 2 points for the “pedagogical goal” of the assignment.  Give up to 2 points, total, even if the image is already on the mural (see list above), depending on the quality of the rationale (the student may have forgotten that the image was already there).

My own choice would be something on the theme of zombies – behaving organisms that lack consciousness.  It appeals because I like to explore what the behavioral consequences of consciousness are, and I’d want the students to explore the limitations of behavior in the absence of conscious awareness and/or conscious control.  [Lodge, Thinks…]


21.  If you were the director of the Holt-Belling Centre for Cognitive Science, what image would you add to Max Karinthy’s mural, and why? 

3.54; .46. Give 2 points for the image.  Any relevant image, plausibly defended, will do -- except for the following, which are already represented in the mural (see Lodge, pp. 50-55). 

Also exclude representations of individual philosophers, psychologists, and other cognitive scientists as such -- even Descartes and William James! – except when they’re used to refer to something other than themselves, as when David Chalmers is depicted as a zombie twin and Roger Penrose as a Magician – or, for that matter, as a quantum mechanic, dressed in quantum overalls with a quantum wrench in his hand. 

Then give another 4 points for the rationale for the image.  Here, though, give up to 2 points even if the image is already on the mural (see list above), depending on the quality of the rationale (the student may have forgotten that the image was already there).

My own choice would be Thomas Eakins’ depiction of the first successful use of ether for anesthesia, shown in lecture.  Philosophers are always citing pain as an example of qualia or some other feature of consciousness, and W.T.G. Morton was hailed as the man who “abolished pain” – and the rest of consciousness with it!  [Lodge, Thinks…]


22.  What is the point of Helen’s quotation, from memory, of the passage from Henry James?  [2 points]

0.37; .31. a bad item, because the pass percent was so low, though the item-to-total correlation was fine. This episode comes early in the book, and it pretty much encapsulates the whole thing. Consciousness entails “first-person” subjectivity, while science seeks “third-person”, objective knowledge about the world.  Ralph thinks that science is the only way to achieve this kind of knowledge; Helen’s point is that literature also allows for third-person descriptions of people’s subjective states of mind.  The deeper point, well worth ending the course on, is that it’s possible to make connections between the sciences and the humanities.  [Lodge, Thinks…]


The scoring guide used to grade the exam
will be posted to the course website as soon as possible after the exam.

Exam grades will be posted on the course website
as soon as possible after May14.


This page last revised 05/19/2013 9:53 AM.