History of Consciousness, Essay Sample in Psychology

Published: 2022-02-24
History of Consciousness, Essay Sample in Psychology
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Consciousness
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1814 words
16 min read

Consciousness refers to the cognizance of stimuli and events. However, awareness can either be of internal psychological functioning and external environmental issues. As such, they can change, and responses can substantially differ due to the level of consciousness of an individual. Also, it is vital to note that consciousness describes our actualities. During the distant evolutionary past, it became biologically advantageous to retain and even access memory at will. In this way, it would allow a theoretical pre-human being to generate and also relate intention in a given moment. In the end, this would lead to the emergence of free will. There was then the emergence of consciousness. There have been struggles from ancient philosophers to the contemporary scientists to attempt to comprehend, examine and even record the procedures involved in human consciousness. However, due to significant development in science, medicine, and psychology, information has been offered concerning the evolution of consciousness. The topic of consciousness has further evolved since its study began in the 1800s by the structuralists. The paper will thus explore the history of consciousness and even consider, for instance, its evolution since the structuralists began its study in the late 1800s.

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Psychologists have been concerned with the study of consciousness since the study on the topic was undertaken in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt, a structuralist. Wundt is commonly referred to as the father of experimental psychology. He was quite active at a time when the future of psychology was uncertain. Through his work and establishment of a psychology laboratory, he managed to strengthen its identity as a genuine discipline. According to Wundt, psychology is also a scientific study of conscious experience. He further had the belief that psychology aimed to categorize constituents of consciousness and how they would be combined to lead to individual conscious experience. In the study of consciousness, Wundt further utilized introspection which is a procedure through which one scrutinizes their conscious experience quantitatively. As such, they make the human mind to be like any other natural element that has been observed as a scientist. The version of introspection chosen by Wundt only utilized particular investigational conditions where an external stimulus was developed to generate a systematically apparent familiarity of the mind (Gale, 2015).

There was a second requirement that entailed the utilization of repeatable stimuli that always led to the generation of a similar experience in the subject. As such, it allowed the issue to expect and therefore be fully observant to the innermost response. These experimental needs were placed correctly to eradicate the element of interpretation when reporting internal experiences and to counter further the argument that there is no way to determine whether an individual is accurately observing their consciousness or mind. The reason behind this is because it cannot be viewed by any other individual (Rieber & Robinson, 2012). Therefore, the trial to comprehend the structure or features of the mind is what was referred to as structuralism, and it is apparent that the concept of consciousness has been made the subject as attempts to trace its heritages are made as well.

It is crucial to note that structuralism was the primary school of psychology and concentrated on breaking down the mental procedures into the simplest elements. As such, it guided the study of consciousness. Wundt in the study of consciousness also believed in reductionism. In this case, he believed that consciousness could be broken down to its primary elements. Additionally, Wundt argued that conscious mental states could be studied scientifically through introspection as previously highlighted. His introspection was however unique and an exceedingly proficient form of self-examination. Psychology students were taught to make annotations that were either biased by individual clarification or preceding familiarity. The outcomes were then employed in the development of a theory of conscious thought. Moreover, the vastly qualified helpers would be given a stimulus that would later replicate on the familiarity. They would thus provide an account of the way the stimulus would make them reason and even feel. The similar stimulus, guidelines, and physical backgrounds were then given to every person (Gale, 2015).

The study of consciousness continued to progress, and in 1890, William James defined the mind as a stream of consciousness. He further viewed it as a continuous flow of altering images, feelings, sensations, and thoughts. It is important to note that William James was the first person to invent the slogan "stream of consciousness" which is also a constant progression of understandings. As such, he viewed the most vital role of consciousness to be the role it played in choosing the most critical elements to divert attention or energy. In an attempt to study the history of consciousness, James depicted that the concept of consciousness becomes more powerful and multifaceted as we escalate higher in the animal kingdom. References to consciousness in animals were outlined in human anthropomorphic instead of the evolutionary terms. James further devoted an aspect of ideologies to a comprehensive and considerate scrutiny of the nature of consciousness. In the principle, he appealed that consciousness is comprehensively linked to thought and relates to the internal life of the mind (Kress, 2013).

James further depicted that consciousness involves five features which can then assist in comprehending its history. In the first one, every thought is a fragment of individual consciousness. As such, this consciousness is self-contained and protected from interruption by any other. In the second characteristic, every particular consciousness conditions are continuously in alteration. In this case, once something like a thought has been experienced, then the next one will be unique. The third feature according to James depicts that thought is rationally endless within every personal consciousness. Hence, in this case, there can be no different breaks to consciousness within the restrictions of a distinct mind. Nonetheless, there is a felt knowledgeable endurance. He further highlighted that these sensations should be viewed as flowing. Following this concept, there can be various points of consciousness that may range from drowsiness to great motion and which conferring to an inverted U-shape meaning; they define the degree of accuracy and simplicity that consciousness seems to adopt (Taylor, 2011). The analysis thus depicted that all observant situations are conscious, but all the conscious states are not observant.

According to James, the fourth feature depicted that human consciousness seems to handle independent objects. As such, the conscious mind knows the things that appear to it and are known as well. Also, he contemplates that the consciousness of matters is what is first considered then the reflective situation which is the constant state of mind. These matters of thought are always supposed in consciousness since endless and in their totality, notwithstanding their potential difficulty. The last feature demonstrates that consciousness is always acting to choose from countless impressions affecting an individual. In this case, it thus decides the difference between the relevant and irrelevant. However, James proposed that this consciousness does not initially arrive in a complete form in the human mind (Bauer, 2009). According to the natural selection process, it must have changed throughout the evolution course and emerged in dissimilar forms when required to support the organism in its capability to fit in its setting (Kress, 2013). It is crucial to note that James clarification of how and why this occurred focused on the development of the cerebrum and the necessity to direct a gradually complex word for a gradually multifaceted organism.

Consciousness according to James arose due to its evolutionary advantage. His argument further spun around his assessment that lower animals such as polyps were best modified to their surrounding after having advanced a nervous structure differentiated by the lack of a cerebrum. The system according to James is noteworthy for precision and consistency and is thus able to respond to a few stimuli but strongly and adequately. On the other hand, the animal in which the cerebrum has fully progressed like it is with humans can acclimatize their behavior to the tiniest modifications in the surrounding conditions. The conduct may be a sign which suggests that distant intentions are more prevailing than any current solicitations of logic. Therefore, the organism without a cerebrum can do a few things but with precision as compared to the one with a cerebrum or high-brained (Bauer, 2009).

The higher centers of the brain thus developed in a way that allowed the animal to adapt better to microscopic distinctions in a setting that is quite multifaceted. However, this led to the destabilization of the nervous system. It resulted in James bringing up the argument that consciousness may have to be involved in the application of continual compression on conducts that appear to be of more long-lasting concern to the organism. Besides, in this context, the brain was viewed as an appliance of likelihoods but needed consciousness to operate as a monitor to forecast the recognition of these likelihoods and hence, underlining the advantageous and suppressing the negative (Taylor, 2011). Consequently, consciousness progressed and was associated with that of the cerebrum to operate as a discerning device by which to control a nervous system that was developing to become too compound for self-regulation.

Edward Titchener was Wundt's student and focused on expanding his ideas and further applying them to the theory of structuralism. As highlighted, this theory assisted to focus on the individual components of consciousness. Titchener added his concept to that of Wundt's psychology of consciousness and tried to categorize the arrangements of the mind. According to him, just as water is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen, the two elements are structures and similar to thoughts and sensations. Therefore, it is apparent that Titchener had the belief that the emphasis of psychology was to study all the conscious experience (Schultz, 2015).

Titchener has been described as the best-known structuralist who extensively utilized the introspection method to develop a map of the aspects of consciousness. Introspection further entails asking participants in research to precisely define their experience as they work on mental tasks such as reading or solving a math problem (Schultz, 2015).

The study of the history of consciousness by structuralists can be compared and contrasted with that of functionalists. One of the functionalists involved in the study of the history of consciousness was William James. Functionalism was developed with the analysis of the mind while functionalism resulted in better concern with the roles of the mind and later to the concept of behaviorism. Also, the approach to psychology by James was less concerned with the mind composition and more with scrutinizing ways that the mind adjusts to altering circumstances and settings. Also, it has been observed that in functionalism, it is believed that the brain has evolved to ensure survival chances are better and higher by operating as an information processor (Kress, 2013).

The study of consciousness has remained stable over a certain duration, but fluctuations have occurred in theory to describe the Western perspective which is relevant in the study of the history of consciousness. After the structuralist...

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