Informatica: An International Journal of Computing and Informatics
The purpose of this paper is to orient the reader to the contemporary scientific study of consciousness. One of the most noticeable features of research concerning consciousness is that there are three domains of discourse, the physiological, computational and experiential, each with its own methodology, and concerns. While confusion is often expressed about what it is that one is discussing, there are four main categories of definitions of the term consciousness: consciousness is the registration, processing and acting on information; behavioural consciousness is the explicit knowledge of one's situation, mental states or actions as demonstrated by one's behaviour; subjective consciousness is the subjective stream of thoughts, feelings and sensations that occur for a person; and consciousness is the sense of existence of the subject of mental acts. There are also disparate views concerning consciousness that surveys have revealed to be correlated with investigators beliefs about the nature of reality along a material-transcendent dimension. Those with materialist views tend to think that only that which is physical is real and that consciousness is an emergent property of neural or information-processing systems; those with conservatively transcendent views think that there is more to reality than that which is physical and emphasize subjective aspects of consciousness; while the extraordinarily transcendent conceptualize consciousness as ontologically primitive and place importance on self-transformation. An investigator's contention that she has had anomalous experiences appears to incline her toward a transcendent position. The presence of these correlations indicates that research programs concerning consciousness proceed, not in an unbiased manner, but on the basis of personal beliefs about the nature of reality. Can beliefs change in the course of the educational process? Data from 129 undergraduate students indicates that beliefs about consciousness and reality can move in a transcendent direction in classes with an instructor with extraordinarily transcendent beliefs.