713-07 description and first assignments

(tentative, 1/16/07)


John Limber, 108 Conant, John.Limber@unh.edu


contact the instructor

My office hours are Tuesday, Thursday 1pm (with some exceptions on Tuesday) and by appointment.

Do not leave phone messages on my office phone; if you need to call try my office 2-3175 but then leave a message with the department secretary at 2-2360.

I will try to respond to email questions within a day during the week; Put 713 in the subject heading or your email may go automatically into the junk folder. NO ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED VIA EMAIL UNLESS EXPLICITLY ALLOWED.

course description

The course will explore the topic of consciousness-- whatever that is!. Background topics include the early accounts of consciousness in W. James and S. Freud and before in what today we would call psychiatry or clinical psychology. Contemporary topics will include "free" will, subliminal perception, priming and other implicit cognitive phenomena, confabulation, dreaming, multiple personality and notions of "self" . We will also wonder about to what extent human mentality -- consciousness included -- is cultural artifact as well as biological phenomenon. This means looking into human history and human development.

We also will examine questions about whether animals, machines, or infants can be conscious and how they may differ from us more or less adult humans. Finally we might ask how and why did these phenomena evolve and what roles our language and our brain play in them --if any!.


1. Anyone expecting definitive answers should seek another course; there are many dimensions to this topic and not a lot of agreement as to what consciousness is! However, we can look at the issues and alternatives and evaluate them from one or another perspectives.

2, Cherished beliefs may be subverted -- if you don't like considering the idea that we humans might be deluding ourselves into believing in "free will," and maybe some other perverted notions, consider another course as well.


At the moment, I think we will read some general background papers on issues in consciousness, followed by Wegner's book, and finally Gladwell's Blink with an effort to update the research he cites in support of his ideas.



Students must have taken Psychology 512 or 513 or comparable Cognition course in addition to Research Methods (502). Permission is required if you do not meet these requirements.

Everyone is expected to attend all classes and occasionally present a review of research on one or more topics to the class. You must have computer access for some email/internet assignments, in addition to viewing notes and assignments.


You will be graded on the basis of class participation including overall contribution to the class, presentations, weekly short written assignments, several essay exams, and a final research report. (Honors students must complete some empirical research project.) Excessive unexcused absences and late assignments will lower your grade.


texts (ordered only at the Durham Book Exchange)

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Wegner, D. (2002) Illusions of Conscious will. Cambridge: MIT Press

other readings as assigned--online, Blackboard, library
www address for this course: http://pubpages.unh.edu/~jel

(click or "right arrow" on cognition)


Week 01    Jan 16-18

Read Read Ellenberger, section 1 and 2 (On Blackboard)

Write a several-part one page paper that is a brief introduction to yourself.  Also tell me what you think consciousness is and what topics might be related to consciousness. Due Thursday, 1/18.


Restate  your idea(s) of what consciousness is, maybe considering your blind spot experience*, and do a brief search in psychInfo or other databases to find two references in recent years relating to those ideas.  Summarize in less than one page the goals or findings of the research. Give the full reference for each in APA style and be prepared to briefly state those findings. (Due Jan 23)


First class- what do we think consciousness is? Diagnostic questions -- do babies have it? Do apes or dogs have it? Can machines have it? Is it optional -- like calculus or even arithmetic? Is it a "mind tool" or useful cognitive function or just an epiphenomenon resulting from our biochemistry? What--if anything-- does our "blind spot" suggest to us about consciousness?

Is consciousness a unitary concept?

*(You haven't "seen" your blindspot for a while? Go to


and follow their demo; be prepared to talk about your experiences next Tuesday.

See http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/chvision.htmll as well! Or


Week 02    Jan 23-25

Finish the selections from Ellenberger on reserve and Blackboard. Show overview of human consciousness video. Discuss Ellenberger, first assignment from last week.

Short written assignment on Ellenberger readings. Pick one of the historical figures or phenomena mention by Ellenberger and write a 1 page biography of that person or history of that phenomenon. In either case, give some significant descriptive details, as well as some information about the current place of that individual or phenomenon in psychology or related fields.

Due Feb. 01, Thursday.

read Jaynes (ch.1) and about Block on "what consciousness is" or is not (online here now.

read for next week: (available now on Blackboard)

Wegner, D. M. (2005). Who is the controller of controlled processes? In R. R. Hassin, J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), The new unconscious (pp. 19-36). New York: Oxford University Press.
Bargh, J. A. (2005). Bypassing the will: Toward demystifying the nonconscious control of social behavior. In R. R. Hassin, J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), The new unconscious (pp. 37-60). New York: Oxford University Press.

Week 03    Jan 31-02

read intro and ch 1 in Wegner.


read Nagel's "What's it like to be a bat?

Week 04    Feb 07-09

catch up on reading, videos, discussion.

Week 05    Feb 14-16 exam 1, Thursday


See daily notes for future assignments.