Consciousness, Altered States of Consciousness, and Behavior Regulation: Altered States of Consciousness



Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semester 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

The aim of the course is to demonstrate how the investigation of altered – sometimes called alternative – states contributes to the current discussions regarding consciousness and unconsciousness. The lectures present the most important issues, then the seminars will deal with the adaptive or sometimes maladaptive roles of altered states of consciousness (ASsC) in behaviour regulation.

Requirement of getting the credits: participation in the discussion of the seminars and a written or oral summary on some debated topic of ASsC connected to the research fields of the PhD

Main topics to be discussed:

  • Cognitive changes in ASsC, reflected in subjective experiences.
  • Changes of behavioural regulation in ASsC: reduction of volitional control, volitional control of vegetative functions, increased suggestibility.
  • Dissociations in ASsC.
  • Physiological changes in ASsC: changes in the inter- and intraregional neural connections of a Limited Capacity Control System regulating arousal and attention.
  • Domhoff, G.W. (2003) The scientific study of dreams: Neural networks, cognitive development, and content analysis. Washington, DC: APA Press
  • Farthing, G. W. (1992) The psychology of consciousness. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Hilgard, E. R. (1977, 1986) Divided consciousness: Multiple controls in human thought and action. New York, etc.: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
  • Kihlstrom, J. F. (1984) Conscious, subconscious, unconscious: A cognitive perspective. In Bowers, K. S., and Meichenbaum, D. (eds.) The unconscious reconsidered. A Wiley-Interscience Publication. New York, etc.: John Wiley & Sons, 149-211.
  • Vaitl, D., Birbaumer, N., Gruzelier, J., Jamieson, G. A., Kotchoubey, B., Kübler, A., Lehmann, D., Miltner, W. H. R., Ott, U., Pütz, P., Sammer, G., Strauch, I., Strehl, U., Wackermann, J., WEISS, T. (2005) Psychobiology of altered states of consciousness. Psychological Bulletin, 131 (1): 98-127.