This mini-paper will elaborate on the effects of perception, including its process and function, related to three altered states of consciousness. The first being sleep and dreams, next drug-altered consciousness, followed by hypnosis. Before discussing the effects of perception while in an altered state, an overview of the basic function and process of perception in a normal setting is needed. Sensation is the bodys initial encounter with a sensory experience. This begins when the sensory receptors receive energy from a particular stimulus, which trigger receptor cells.
The physical energy is converted into electrochemicals, then passes along sensory nerves, to the central nervous system where the brain receives the energy as a detailed message. However, not all physical energy produces a sensation. A minimum intensity, termed absolute threshold, must be achieved in order to produce a sensation. Perception takes place when the message reaches the brain and is then deciphered. Here, the sensory information is organized and interpreted to be made sense of. Using sensory information as raw material, the brain creates perceptual experiences that go beyond what is sensed directly (Morris & Maisto, 2010, p. 06).
Again, this is the series of events in the normal waking state of consciousness. During an altered state of consciousness the effect, process, and/or function of perception may vary. Sleep is the bodys natural way of recharging itself mentally and physically. Research has shown that adequate sleep contributes to cognitive functioning such as enhanced creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, and also crucial to the formation of long-term memories (Morris & Maisto, 2010). These are some of the basis of perception, hence the reason for its peak during waking consciousness.
REM sleep, or paradoxical sleep, ironically, is a close resemblance to waking consciousness. However, REM is a deep sleep, it is difficult to wake the person, and is when most dreaming takes place. Dreams, in a way, could be considered perception. The brain subconsciously interprets information without the need of sensory stimulation. Psychologists define dreams as visual and auditory experiences that our minds create during sleep (Morris & Maisto, 2010, p. 131). This is an example of a natural occurrence of altering consciousness. Drug-altered consciousness on the other hand, is self-induced.
Psychoactive drugs are substances that change peoples moods, perceptions, mental functioning, or behavior (Morris & Maisto, 2010, p. 134). Drugs are taken to purposely alter ones state of consciousness. To analyze the effect drugs have on the nervous system, three categories of drugs will be mentioned: depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Depressants slow behavior, thinking, and perception by increasing or decreasing nerve impulses. Stimulants, such as amphetamines, produce feelings of optimism as well as never-ending energy by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system.
These drugs cause the release of norepinephrine from adrenergic nerve endings (Weil, n. d. ). Lastly, hallucinogens distort the users senses and induce perceptual changes by causing experiences that resemble hallucinations. A positive for psychoactive drugs is the ability to explore different parts of the brain while in this altered state of consciousness. Although, the negative consequences of abuse and addiction are high risk. The last section is a technique that has been used for centuries for positivity, without the risk. Hypnosis is a trancelike state in which a person responds readily to suggestions (Morris & Maisto, 2010, p. 50).
This is an altered state of consciousness that works like sleep. The subconscious person receives a suggestion, which acts as a stimulus, and is sent to and interpreted by the brain. Hypnosis can help ease pain as well as cure an addiction. In conclusion, perceptual experiences vary in different forms of consciousness. Whether it be the sensory organs or the brain itself, interpretation of the coded message is somehow changed. The process and function of perception in waking consciousness differs from those while in an altered state of consciousness.