By Robert Biswas-Diener and also Jake Teeny

Portland State College, The Ohio State University

No matter what you’redoing--resolving homeoccupational, playing a video game, ssuggest picking out a shirt--all ofyour actions and decisions relate to your consciousness. But as frequently as weusage it, have actually you ever before quit to ask yourself: What really is consciousness? In this module, we discuss the various levelsof consciousness and how they have the right to affect your habits in a range ofinstances. As well, we check out the role of consciousness in various other, “altered”states prefer hypnosis and sleep.

You are watching: Daydreaming is most likely to occur during which type of consciousness?

 Share
Share this URL

Learning Objectives

Define consciousness and identify in between high and low aware statesExplain the relationship in between consciousness and also biasUnderstand also the distinction between popular portrayals of hypnosis and exactly how it is currently provided therapeuticallyIntroduction

Have you ever had a fellow motorist quit alongside you at a red light, singing his brains out, or picking his nose, or otherwise behaving in ways he could not generally execute in public? There is somepoint about being alone in a vehicle that encourages people to zone out and forget that others deserve to view them. Although these bit lapses of attention are ammaking use of for the remainder of us, they are likewise instructive as soon as it comes to the topic of consciousness.

This guy is singing his heart out in his one-male mobile music studio. Have you ever before done this?

Consciousness is a term meant to suggest awareness. It has awareness of the self, of bodily sensations, of thoughts and also of the environment. In English, we use the oppowebsite word “unconscious” to show senselessness or a barrier to awareness, as in the case of “Theresa fell off the ladder and hit her head, knocking herself unmindful.” And yet, psychological theory and also study imply that consciousness and unconsciousness are more complicated than falling off a ladder. That is, consciousness is more than simply being “on” or “off.” For circumstances, Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)—a psychological theorist—interpreted that also while we are awake, many type of things lay exterior the realm of our mindful awareness (favor being in the car and also forgaining the remainder of the human being can view right into your windows). In response to this concept, Freud presented the concept of the “subconscious” (Freud, 2001) and proposed that some of our memories and also our standard motivations are not constantly available to our mindful minds.

Upon reflection, it is simple to check out exactly how slippery a topic consciousness is. For instance, are civilization aware once they are daydreaming? What about as soon as they are drunk? In this module, we will describe a number of levels of consciousness and then discuss altered says of consciousness such as hypnosis and sleep.

Levels of Awareness

In 1957, a marketing researcher placed the words “Eat Popcorn” onto one structure of a film being displayed all throughout the United States. And although that framework was just projected onto the movie display for 1/2fourth of a second—a rate also fast to be regarded by mindful awareness—the researcher reported a rise in popcorn sales by almost 60%. Almost automatically, all develops of “subliminal messaging” were regulated in the US and also banned in nations such as Australia and also the UK. Even though it was later shown that the researcher had actually comprised the information (he hadn’t even placed the words into the film), this are afraid around influences on our subconscious persists. At its heart, this concern pits assorted levels of awareness against one another. On the one hand, we have the “low awareness” of subtle, even subliminal influences. On the various other hand also, tbelow is you—the mindful reasoning, feeling you which includes all that you are presently aware of, also reading this sentence. However before, as soon as we think about these various levels of awareness separately, we have the right to better understand also exactly how they run.

Low Awareness

You are constantly receiving and evaluating sensory information. Although each moment has actually as well many sights, smells, and sounds for them all to be consciously taken into consideration, our brains are nonetheless processing all that indevelopment. For example, have you ever gone to a party, overwhelmed by all the world and conversation, as soon as out of nowbelow you hear your name called? Even though you have no principle what else the person is saying, you are somejust how mindful of your name (for more on this, “the cocktail party impact,” see Noba’s Module on Attention). So, even though you might not be aware of various stimuli in your environment, your brain is paying closer attention than you think.

Similar to a reflex (prefer jumping when startled), some cues, or substantial sensory information, will automatically elicit an answer from us also though we never before consciously perceive it. For example, Öhguy and Soares (1994) measured subtle variations in sweating of participants through a fear of snakes. The researchers flaburned pictures of different objects (e.g., mushrooms, flowers, and also the majority of importantly, snakes) on a screen in front of them, but did so at speeds that left the participant cluemuch less as to what he or she had actually actually watched. However, once snake photos were flamelted, these participants started sweating more (i.e., a authorize of fear), also though they had no idea what they’d just viewed!

Although our brains perceive some stimuli without our mindful awareness, execute they really impact our succeeding thoughts and behaviors? In a landmark research, Bargh, Chen, and also Burrows (1996) had participants settle a word search puzzle where the answers pertained to words around the elderly (e.g., “old,” “grandma”) or somepoint random (e.g., “notebook,” “tomato”). Afterward, the researchers secretly measured exactly how rapid the participants walked down the hallway exiting the experiment. And although namong the participants were mindful of a theme to the answers, those who had solved a puzzle via elderly words (vs. those with other kinds of words) walked more progressively down the hallway!


This result is called priming (i.e., readily “activating” specific concepts and associations from one’s memory) has been found in a variety of various other researches. For example, priming human being by having actually them drink from a warmth glass (vs. a cold one) led to behaving even more “warmly” towards others (Williams & Bargh, 2008). Although every one of these influences occur beneath one’s mindful awareness, they still have a far-ranging impact on one’s succeeding thoughts and also habits. 

In the last two decades, researchers have made advancements in studying elements of psychology that exist beyond conscious awareness. As you deserve to understand also, it is difficult to usage self-reports and also surveys to ask people around motives or beliefs that they, themselves, might not also be conscious of! One method of side-stepping this obstacle deserve to be discovered in the implicit associations test, or IAT (Greenwald, McGhee & Schwartz, 1998). This research method provides computer systems to assess people’s reactivity times to miscellaneous stimuli and also is a really difficult test to fake bereason it records automatic reactions that happen in milliseconds. For circumstances, to melted light on deeply hosted biases, the IAT might existing photographs of Caucasian deals with and also Oriental faces while asking study participants to click buttons indicating either “good” or “bad” as quickly as possible. Even if the participant clicks “good” for every challenge presented, the IAT can still pick up tiny delays in responding. Delays are linked through more psychological initiative required to process indevelopment. When indevelopment is processed quickly—as in the instance of white encounters being judged as “good”—it have the right to be contrasted through slower processing—as in the example of Asian deals with being judged as “good”—and the distinction in handling speed is reflective of predisposition. In this regard, the IAT has been provided for investigating stereotypes (Nosek, Banaji & Greenwald, 2002) as well as self-esteem (Greenwald & Farnam, 2000). This method can assist uncover non-aware biases as well as those that we are urged to suppush.

An actual screenswarm from an IAT (Implicit Association Test) that a perchild can take to test their very own psychological representations of miscellaneous cognitive constructs. In this specific situation, this is an item experimentation an individual’s unmindful reaction in the direction of members of miscellaneous ethnic teams.

High Awareness

Just bereason we may be affected by these “invisible” components, it doesn’t intend we are helplessly controlled by them. The various other side of the awareness continuum is well-known as “high awareness.” This consists of effortful attention and cautious decision making. For example, as soon as you listen to a funny story on a day, or think about which course schedule would certainly be preferable, or complete a facility math problem, you are engaging a state of consciousness that permits you to be extremely mindful of and focused on certain details in your setting.

Meditation has actually been practiced for centuries in religious conmessages. In the previous 50 years it has actually come to be progressively popular as a secular exercise. Scientific studies have linked meditation to reduced tension and better health.

Mindfulness is a state of greater consciousness that includes an awareness of the thoughts passing via one’s head. For example, have actually you ever snapped at someone in frustration, just to take a moment and reflect on why you responded so aggressively? This more effortful consideration of your thoughts could be defined as an expansion of your mindful awareness as you take the time to think about the feasible influences on your thoughts. Research has displayed that once you interact in this more delibeprice consideration, you are less persuaded by irappropriate yet biasing impacts, like the presence of a celebrity in an advertisement (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Higher awareness is additionally connected with recognizing once you’re making use of a stereoform, fairly than reasonably evaluating another perchild (Gilbert & Hixon, 1991).

Humans different between low and also high reasoning claims. That is, we transition between focused attention and a much less attentive default sate, and we have neural networks for both (Raichle, 2015). Interestingly, the the less we’re paying attention, the even more most likely we are to be affected by non-mindful stimuli (Chaiken, 1980). Although these subtle impacts may affect us, we deserve to use our better aware awareness to safeguard versus exterior impacts. In what’s recognized as the Flexible Correction Model (Wegener & Petty, 1997), people who are conscious that their thoughts or actions are being influenced by an undue, exterior resource, have the right to correct their attitude against the bias. For example, you might be conscious that you are influenced by point out of specific political parties. If you were encouraged to think about a federal government policy you can take your own biases right into account to attempt to consider the policy in a fair way (on its very own merits quite than being attached to a details party). 

To aid make the connection between reduced and also greater consciousness clearer, imagine the brain is like a journey dvery own a river. In low awareness, you sindicate float on a small rubber raft and let the curleas press you. It"s not exceptionally hard to just drift along however you additionally do not have total manage. Higher claims of consciousness are more prefer traveling in a canoe. In this scenario, you have a paddle and also can steer, but it calls for more effort. This analogy applies to many kind of says of consciousness, yet not all. What about various other states such as prefer sleeping, daydreaming, or hypnosis? How are these regarded our conscious awareness? 

Table 1: States of ConsciousnessOther States of Consciousness


If you’ve ever before watched a stage hypnotist perdevelop, it might paint a misleading portrait of this state of consciousness. The hypnotized civilization on stage, for instance, show up to be in a state equivalent to sleep. However, as the hypnotist proceeds through the display, you would acknowledge some prodiscovered distinctions between sleep and also hypnosis. Namely, when you’re asleep, hearing the word “strawberry” doesn’t make you flap your arms favor a chicken. In phase performances, the hypnotized participants show up to be highly suggestible, to the suggest that they are seemingly under the hypnotist’s manage. Such performances are entertaining but have actually a means of sensationalizing the true nature of hypnotic states.

People being hypnotized on phase.

Hypnosis is an actual, recorded phenomenon—one that has actually been studied and also discussed for over 200 years (Pekala et al., 2010). Franz Mesmer (1734 – 1815) is often attributed as among the initially world to “discover” hypnosis, which he used to treat members of elite society that were experiencing emotional ditension. It is from Mesmer’s name that we get the English word, “mesmerize” interpretation “to entrance or transfix a person’s attention.” Mesmer attributed the effect of hypnosis to “pet magnetism,” an alleged universal force (equivalent to gravity) that operates via all huguy bodies. Even at the moment, such an account of hypnosis was not scientifically sustained, and Mesmer himself was frequently the facility of controversy.

Over the years, researchers have proposed that hypnosis is a mental state defined by decreased peripheral awareness and raised emphasis on a singular stimulus, which results in an magnified susceptibility to suggestion (Kihlstrom, 2003). For example, the hypnotist will certainly generally induce hypnosis by obtaining the perchild to pay attention only to the hypnotist’s voice. As the individual concentrates more and also even more on that, s/he starts to forget the conmessage of the establishing and also responds to the hypnotist’s suggestions as if they were his or her own. Some civilization are normally more suggestible, and also therefore more “hypnotizable” than are others, and this is especially true for those who score high in empathy (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003). One widespread “trick” of phase hypnotists is to discard volunteers who are much less suggestible than others. 

Dissociation is the separation of one’s awareness from whatever besides what one is centrally focused on. For example, if you’ve ever before been daydreaming in class, you were likely so caught up in the fantasy that you didn’t hear a word the teacher shelp. Throughout hypnosis, this dissociation becomes even more too much. That is, a perkid concentrates so much on the words of the hypnotist that s/he loses perspective of the rest of the world around them. As an effect of dissociation, a perkid is less effortful, and also less self-aware in consideration of his or her own thoughts and behaviors. Similar to low awareness claims, wbelow one regularly acts on the first believed that comes to mind, so, too, in hypnosis does the individual ssuggest follow the initially believed that comes to mind, i.e., the hypnotist’s pointer. Still, just bereason one is more at risk to idea under hypnosis, it doesn’t suppose s/he will certainly carry out anything that’s ordered. To be hypnotized, you have to first want to be hypnotized (i.e., you can’t be hypnotized versus your will; Lynn & Kirsh, 2006), and also when you are hypnotized, you won’t execute anypoint you wouldn’t likewise execute while in a much more organic state of consciousness (Lynn, Rhue, & Weekes, 1990).

Today, hypnotreatment is still provided in a range of layouts, and also it has advanced from Mesmer’s early on tinkering via the principle. Modern hypnotreatment frequently supplies a combination of relaxation, tip, catalyst and expectancies to create a wanted psychological or behavioral state. Although tbelow is mixed evidence on whether hypnotherapy have the right to help through addiction reduction (e.g., quitting smoking; Abbot et al., 1998) tright here is some evidence that it have the right to be effective in treating sufferers of acute and chronic pain (Ewin, 1978; Syrjala et al., 1992). For instance, one examine examined the treatment of burn patients with either hypnotreatment, pseudo-hypnosis (i.e., a placebo condition), or no treatment at all. Afterward, also though world in the placebo condition experienced a 16% decrease in pain, those in the actual hypnosis problem experienced a reduction of nearly 50% (Patterson et al., 1996). Therefore, even though hypnosis may be sensationalized for tv and also movies, its capability to disassociate a perchild from their atmosphere (or their pain) in conjunction through boosted suggestibility to a clinician’s referrals (e.g., “you will feel less tension about your chronic pain”) is a recorded exercise through actual clinical benefits.

Now, equivalent to hypnotic claims, trance states also involve a dissociation of the self; yet, world in a trance state are said to have less voluntary control over their behaviors and actions. Trance states frequently occur in spiritual ceremonies, wright here the perchild believes he or she is “possessed” by an otherworldly being or force. While in trance, people report anecdotal accounts of a “greater consciousness” or communion via a greater power. However before, the body of study investigating this phenomenon tends to disapprove the claim that these experiences constitute an “changed state of consciousness.”

Most researchers this day explain both hypnosis and trance claims as “subjective” alterations of consciousness, not an actually distinct or progressed create (Kirsch & Lynn, 1995). Similar to you feel different as soon as you’re in a state of deep relaxation, so, as well, are hypnotic and also trance states sindicate shifts from the typical conscious experience. Researchers contend that even though both hypnotic and trance says show up and also feel wildly various than the normal huguy suffer, they deserve to be defined by conventional socio-cognitive factors like imagination, expectation, and also the interpretation of the situation.


Sleep is necessary in order for world to attribute well.

You might have knowledgeable the sensation-- as you are falling asleep-- of falling and then discovered yourself physically jerking forward and also grabbing out as if you were really falling. Sleep is a distinct state of consciousness; it lacks complete awareness yet the brain is still energetic. People primarily follow a “organic clock” that effects once they naturally become drowsy, as soon as they fall asleep, and also the time they normally awaken. The hormone melatonin boosts at night and also is connected with coming to be sleepy. Your natural everyday rhythm, or Circadian Rhythm, deserve to be influenced by the amount of daylight to which you are exposed and your work-related and activity schedule. Changing your area, such as flying from Canada to England, deserve to disrupt your organic sleep rhythms, and also we speak to this jet lag. You deserve to overcome jet lag by synchronizing yourself to the local schedule by exposing yourself to daylight and also forcing yourself to continue to be awake also though you are naturally sleepy.

Interestingly, sleep itself is even more than shutting off for the night (or for a nap). Instead of turning off like a light via a flick of a switch, your change in consciousness is reflected in your brain’s electrical task. While you are awake and also alert your brain task is noted by beta waves. Beta waves are characterized by being high in frequency however low in intensity. In addition, they are the a lot of incontinuous brain wave and this mirrors the wide variation in sensory input that a perkid procedures throughout the day. As you start to relax these readjust to alpha waves. These waves reflect brain task that is less regular, more constant and more intense. As you slip into actual sleep you shift via many type of steras. Scholars differ on exactly how they characterize sleep stages with some experts suggesting that tbelow are 4 unique stages (Manoach et al., 2010), while others recognize five (Šušmáková, & Krakovská, 2008) yet they all identify between those that encompass fast eye movement (REM) and also those that are non-rapid eye activity (NREM). In addition, each stage is typically defined by its very own distinct pattern of brain activity:

Stage 1 (called NREM 1, or N1) is the "falling asleep" stage and is marked by theta waves.Stage 2 (dubbed NREM 2, or N2) is considered a light sleep. Here, tbelow are occasional “sleep spindles,” or exceptionally high intensity brain waves. These are thought to be associated with the processing of memories. NREM 2 makes up around 55% of all sleep.Stage 3 (called NREM 3, or N3) renders up between 20-25% of all sleep and is noted by better muscle relaxation and the appearance of delta waves.Finally, REM sleep is marked by quick eye motion (REM). Interestingly, this stage—in regards to brain activity—is similar to wakefulness. That is, the brain waves occur less intensely than in other steras of sleep. REM sleep accounts for around 20% of all sleep and also is linked with dreaming. 
Figure 1. Changes in brain task or brainwaves throughout different steras of consciousness – from being awake and also throughout miscellaneous stperiods of sleep.

Dreams are, arguably, the many amazing facet of sleep. Throughout history desires have actually been offered one-of-a-kind importance bereason of their distinct, nearly mystical nature. They have actually been thmust be predictions of the future, clues of surprise aspects of the self, vital lessons around just how to live life, or methods to engage in difficult deeds like flying. Tbelow are a number of contending theories of why human beings dream. One is that it is our nonmindful attempt to make sense of our daily experiences and also finding out. Anvarious other, popularized by Freud, is that dreams represent taboo or troublesome wishes or desires. Regardless of the particular reason we understand a few facts around dreams: all human beings dream, we dream at eexceptionally phase of sleep, however desires in the time of REM sleep are particularly vivid. One under-explored location of dream research study is the feasible social features of dreams: we regularly share our desires through others and use them for entertainment worth.

Sleep serves many type of features, among which is to offer us a duration of psychological and also physical restoration. Children mainly require even more sleep than adults because they are emerging. It is so important, in truth, that a absence of sleep is associated via a broad range of problems. People that do not obtain sufficient sleep are even more irritable, have actually slower reaction time, have actually more difficulty sustaining attention, and make poorer decisions. Interestingly, this is an issue appropriate to the lives of college students. In one extremely cited examine researchers discovered that 1 in 5 students took more than 30 minutes to autumn asleep at night, 1 in 10 occasionally took sleep medicines, and more than fifty percent reported being “greatly tired” in the mornings (Buboltz, et al, 2001).

Psychoactive Drugs

On April 16, 1943, Albert Hoffman—a Swiss chemist working in a pharmaceutical company—accidentally ingested a recently synthesized drug. The drug—lysergic acid diethylimide (LSD)—turned out to be an effective hallucinogen. Hoffmale went house and later on reported the impacts of the drug, describing them as seeing the human being via a “warped mirror” and also experiencing visions of “extraplain forms with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” Hoffguy had uncovered what members of many kind of conventional cultures roughly the people currently knew: tbelow are substances that, when ingested, have the right to have actually an effective effect on perception and also on consciousness.

Drugs operate on huguy physiology in a selection of methods and researchers and also clinical doctors tend to classify drugs according to their impacts. Here we will briefly cover 3 categories of drugs: hallucinogens, depressants, and stimulants.


It is feasible that hallucinogens are the substance that have actually, historically, been used the a lot of widely. Timeless cultures have actually used plant-based hallucinogens such as peyote, ebene, and also psilocybin mushrooms in a wide selection of religious ceremonies. Hallucinogens are substances that transform a person’s perceptions, frequently by producing visions or hallucinations that are not genuine. Tright here are a large array of hallucinogens and many kind of are provided as recreational substances in industrialized cultures. Typical examples encompass marijuana, LSD, and MDMA (likewise known as “ecstasy”). Marijuana is the dried flowers of the hemp plant and also is frequently smoked to produce euphoria. The energetic ingredient in marijuana is dubbed THC and have the right to develop distortions in the perception of time, have the right to produce a feeling of rambling, unrelated thoughts, and also is occasionally associated through boosted hunger or extreme laughter. The use and also possession of marijuana is illegal in the majority of areas yet this appears to be a trfinish that is changing. Uruguay, Bangladesh, and several of the USA, have actually recently legalized marijuana. This may be due, in component, to transforming public mindsets or to the truth that marijuana is increasingly provided for clinical functions such as the management of nausea or treating glaucoma.


Depressants are substances that, as their name says, slow-moving dvery own the body’s physiology and also mental procedures. Alcohol is the most extensively provided depressant. Alcohol’s results encompass the reduction of inhibition, definition that intoxicated civilization are more most likely to act in methods they would certainly otherwise be reluctant to. Alcohol’s mental effects are the result of it increasing the neurotransmitter GABA. Tbelow are likewise physical impacts, such as loss of balance and coordination, and also these stem from the means that alcohol interferes with the coordination of the visual and motor systems of the brain. In spite of the fact that alcohol is so extensively welcomed in many cultures it is also linked via a range of risks. First, alcohol is toxic, meaning that it acts like a poison bereason it is possible to drink even more alcohol than the body deserve to efficiently remove from the bloodstream. When a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches .3 to .4% tright here is a serious risk of fatality. Second, the lack of judgment and also physical control linked with alcohol is connected with more danger taking actions or dangerous habits such as drunk driving. Finally, alcohol is addictive and also heavy drinkers often endure substantial interference with their capacity to work-related effectively or in their cshed relationships.

Other widespread depressants encompass opiates (likewise called “narcotics”), which are substances synthesized from the poppy freduced. Opiates stimulate endorphin production in the brain and bereason of this they are regularly supplied as pain killers by medical experts. Unfortunately, because opiates such as Oxycontin so reliably develop euphoria they are significantly used—illegally—as recreational substances. Opiates are highly addictive.


Caffeine is the most commonly consumed stimulant in the people. Be hocolony, just how many type of cups of coffee, tea, or energy drinks have you had actually today?

Stimulants are substances that “rate up” the body’s physiological and also psychological processes. Two generally offered stimulants are caffeine—the drug uncovered in coffee and also tea—and nicotine, the energetic drug in cigarettes and also various other tobacco assets. These substances are both legal and reasonably inexpensive, bring about their widespcheck out use. Many kind of people are attracted to stimulants bereason they feel more alert as soon as under the influence of these drugs. Just like any drug tright here are wellness dangers linked via intake. For instance, excessive consumption of these types of stimulants deserve to lead to stress, headaches, and insomnia. Similarly, cigarette smoking cigarettes—the a lot of widespread indicates of ingesting nicotine—is associated via better threats of cancer. For circumstances, among hefty smokers 90% of lung cancer is straight attributable to smoking (Stewart & Kleihues, 2003).

Tbelow are other stimulants such as cocaine and also methamphetamine (also known as “crystal meth” or “ice”) that are illegal substances that are typically supplied. These substances act by blocking “re-uptake” of dopamine in the brain. This indicates that the brain does not normally clear out the dopamine and also that it builds up in the synapse, developing euphoria and also alertness. As the effects wear off it stimulates strong cravings for even more of the drug. Therefore these powerful stimulants are very addictive.


When you think about your everyday life it is simple to acquire lulled right into the idea that there is one “setting” for your aware thought. That is, you likely believe that you host the exact same opinions, values, and also memories throughout the day and also throughout the week. But “you” are choose a dimmer switch on a light that have the right to be turned from full darkness progressively on approximately full brightness. This switch is consciousness. At your brightest establishing you are fully alert and also aware; at dimmer settings you are day dreaming; and also sleep or being knocked unaware represent dimmer settings still. The degree to which you are in high, tool, or low says of aware awareness influence just how vulnerable you are to persuasion, exactly how clear your judgment is, and just how much detail you have the right to recontact. Understanding levels of awareness, then, is at the heart of knowledge just how we learn, decide, remember and many type of other necessary psychological processes.

See more: Letter To Ferdinand And Isabella Regarding The Fourth Voyage

Outside Resources

App: Visual illusions for the iPad. A wonderful book about how little bit we understand about ourselves: Wilchild, T. D. (2004). Strangers to ourselves. Cambridge, MA: Harvard College Press. Another wonderful book about free will—or its absence?: Wegner, D. M. (2002). The illusion of mindful will. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. on alcoholism, alcohol abusage, and also treatment: Amerideserve to Psychological Association has actually indevelopment on getting a great night’s sleep and on sleep disorders LSD simulator: This simulator offers optical illusions to simulate the halluginogenic suffer of LSD. Simply follow the instructions in this 2 minute video. After looking amethod you might see the people approximately you in a warped or pulsating means equivalent to the results of LSD. The impact is short-term and will disshow up in around a minute.