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Consciousness

Synonyms: Psychological Awareness

Consciousness is an illusion. Consciousness remains a mystery even to those who venture to describe it. Its definition is highly controversial, so encyclopedias and dictionaries, such as Wikipedia and Meriam-Webster on-line, in order to avoid endless disputes list lot of definitions at once, each emphasizing some other aspects of the phenomenon. What all these definitions have in common, is the notion of awareness. Awareness is crucial to consciousness. Without awareness, there is no consciousness, so awareness provides the key to a comprehensive definition.

The fauceir definition sounds quite simple: Consciousness is a fauceir that links emotions to social behavior. (We are going to explain this now, of course.)

  1. The long held believe that consciousness is something inborn to all humans is wrong. Consciousness has to be learned by social interactions. Children deprived of any social interaction cannot develop consciousness. The history provides some rare examples, Kaspar Hauser for instance.
  2. We find consciousness only in humans that evolved a hight degree of social life. We may search for rudimentary consciousness in those animals that show emotions like fear and live in social compounds. (More to this rather hypothetical point later.)
  3. During upbringing of a child the society (beginning with the parents, usually the fist society a child becomes aware of) teaches emotions different from what is felt by own receptors. The social teachers unfold a new pseudo reality that arouses different emotions.
  4. When the same external stimulus causes different emotions, an individual can make a choice and he or she becomes aware. As always, awareness is knowing the difference.

Examples

graphviz image

The first example shows the chain of reaction as observer in fish and birds where a single reaction to a thread is typical. In some mammals a limited number of reactions to a thread may exist, and the animal chooses the most appropriate depending on the character of the thread and some learned behavior patterns.

graphviz image

OF NOTE: the latter graph distinguishes between fear and anxiety, which may sound as the same entity to most people. In this context 'fear' is the primary emotion. It is what subconsciously happens to a threated person when for instance the heart rate goes up. Anxiety, by contrast is the conscious reaction to the primary emotion. I'm not a native English speaker, so it is possible that English usage is reverse, but I know from German and some other language that such a distinction is seldom made in casual conversation.

Human are capable to completely consciously reinterpret their initial feeling and as a consequence may react as if they were insane. An example is a soldier who certainly feels fear when the enemy starts to fire, but the society needs the prevent a soldier from leaving the battlefield, so the society excerts pressure on a soldier to consciously understand ones own feelings, to reinterpret them, and to attack the enemy or commit self-sacrifice.

At this point the question arises about highly trained and socialized circus animals. Is a lion that jumps through a ring of fire capable to consciously reinterpret its fear. I rather believe not because a conscious reinterpretation of a feeling is much more flexible allows to be changed rapidly all the time, whereas a circus lion is trained for just performing that trick. Anyway, training like that is at the beginning of each human development of consciousness.

Implications

Psychiatry

There is a number of psychiatric disorder that may be interpreted as inappropriate consciousness disorders.

  1. We all know that most debilitation disorders, whether inborn or developed with age, such as Alzheimer disease, cause patients not being aware of their disease. The underlying mechanism is a deprivation of social interactions caused by physical damage of neurons that allow to memorize socially trained alternative emotions. Supporting evidence comes from a studies like this one [1] that demonstrated delayed onset of Alzheimer disease in people who maintained an active lifestyle and bilingualism. If this assumption is true the following can be hypothesized:
    1. The loss of socially inducible emotions should precede any other symptoms of Alzheimer dementia such as the loss of short term memory.
    2. Social isolation would accelerate its progression while a plethora social interactions may delay it.
  2. At the other end of the spectrum are bipolar disorders that are characterized by emotions that are either depressive or manic but in any case do not correspond to the situation as observed by others socially more compliant people. If the fauceir theory of consciousness holds, the patients cannot become aware of their irrelevant emotions because they lack alternatives to those fauceirs that initially aroused the emotions. Again the reason might be social deprivation, not enough learned social alternatives, but it also may be the opposite. The patient learned social alternatives average people are not aware of. The latter would be the Cassandra phenomenon. This would explain why, by contrast to debilitating disorders, some patients with bipolar disorders exhibit higher-than-average intelligence.

Political discourse

In political discourse it is important to know, that a homo politicus, is a conscious person, but a conscious person is not a rational person too. Most people believe for their sheer capability to realize social alternatives and make choices those choices are automatically rational. They are only in the rarest of cases.

Controlling people

This section is not actually about controlling people but it lists some studies that may help to understand the concept how peoples conscious (not rational) decisions can be manipulated.

  1. Young men interpreted fear on a hight bridge (acrophobia), when confronted with an attractive woman as sexual stimulus[2]. I heard the rumor that couples prefer Niagara Falls for honeymoon trips. Given that study I rather think it is a good idea for white marriages.
  2. Listening to a Green advertisement or passing by a store with sustainable products makes people more responsible while actually buying such products does actually the opposite[3].
  3. Interviewed in front of a church caused people to give more religious answers[4].

Tags: Anthropology Behavior Theory


Categories: Psychology Sociology

 
   

(c) Mato Nagel, Weißwasser 2004-2013, Disclaimer