Consciousness (discontinued)

Minor in Consciousness (discontinued)

As of the 2020-2021 academic year, the Consciousness minor has been discontinued indefinitely. This legacy page remains to provide information for graduates of the minor.

From 2014 through 2020, the University of Washington offered the Minor Degree in Consciousness – the first degree of its kind.

The Minor in Consciousness investigated the nature, dynamics, and functions of the mind through the perspectives of depth psychology, neuroscience, physics, and contemplative practices. It utilized objective and subjective methods to explore levels of awareness, the intersection of mind and matter, and ways to enhance individual and collective well-being.

Program requirements

The minor required of a minimum of 25 credits.

Core requirements  - 10 credits

Students took both of these courses.

  • BCONSC 321 - The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (5 cr)
  • BCONSC 322 - Exploration of Consciousness (5 cr)

Elective requirements  - 15 credits

Students took at least 15 credits of coursework from the following options.

  • B BIO 310 - Brain and Behavior (5 cr)
  • B PHYS 201 (formerly 305) - The Cosmos (5 cr)
  • BCONSC 323 - The Psychology and Science of Dreams (5 cr)
  • BCONSC 424 - Consciousness, Ethics, and the Natural World (5 cr)
  • BCONSC 425 - Consciousness and Well-Being (5 cr)

Optional undergraduate research – up to 5 credits

  • BCONSC 499 - Undergraduate Research in Consciousness

Educational goals

The Consciousness Minor emphasized broad approaches to the study of consciousness, bringing together a variety of scientific and contemplative disciplines to achieve the following goals:

  1. Understand the ways in which contemporary scientists and contemplative scholars are collaborating to investigate the psychology, biology, phenomenology, and physics of consciousness.
  2. Analyze complex models of consciousness from scientific, philosophical, historical, and contemplative perspectives.
  3. Consider the role of different states of consciousness in facilitating creative processes, inventions, and scientific discoveries as well as psychological, physical, and societal well-being.
  4. Examine the influence and limits of scientific paradigms, as well as their ethical implications.
  5. Comprehend the ways in which thoughts, emotions, and contemplative practices change the anatomical and physiological structure and functioning of the brain.
  6. Explore the role of meditation and contemplative practices in expanding our knowledge about the nature and scope of consciousness.
  7. Offer students opportunities to participate in research at the leading edge of an emerging field.
  8. Provide a platform for students to explore their own consciousness, heighten mental clarity, and improve individual and collective well-being.

Course descriptions

B BIO 310 - Brain and Behavior

Interdisciplinary exploration of the biological basis of human behavior, including altruism, aggression, learning, communication, and mating. Draws on neuroanatomy, neuroscience, endocrinology, ethology, genetics, and sociobiology to examine how the brain influences, and is influenced by, behavior. Readings include primary literature as well as popular publications.

B PHYS 201 (formerly 305) - The Cosmos

Provides a conceptual introduction to the foundation and current theories of cosmology. Studies black holes, time travel, the Big Bang, and dark matter.

BCONSC 321 - Consciousness Studies

Introduces the field of consciousness studies. Explores the interaction of mind and body through scientific studies of dreams, intuition, intention, and anomalous phenomena. Includes the role of meditation and contemplative practices in physiological and psychological well-being.

BCONSC 322 - Exploration of Consciousness

Deeper inquiry into the nature of consciousness and the interaction of mind and body. Topics include the biology of compassion and belief, attention and intention in neuroplasticity, experimental studies of meditation and mental training in promoting psychological, physical health; and the emergence of an integral scientific paradigm. Prerequisite: BCONSC 321.

BCONSC 323 - Psychology and Science of Dreams

Explores the psychology and science of dreams. Topics include the history and theories of dreams, modern experimental studies of dreaming and dream content, lucid dreams, contribution of dreams to scientific creativity, and dream incubation and interpretation techniques.

BCONSC 325 - Mind and Matter

Explores the relationship between mental and physical events in the constitution and representation of reality. Integrates perspectives from philosophy of mind and modern physics to build insight into the relationship between mind and matter, the nature of consciousness, and possibilities of free will.

BCONSC 424 - Consciousness and the Natural World

Explores emerging models of consciousness in the natural world. Topics include scientific and shamanic research about animal and plant consciousness and the ethical implications of this inquiry for human interaction with other species.  Prerequisite: BCONSC 322.

BCONSC 425 - Consciousness and Well-Being

Focuses on understanding the non-local dynamics of human consciousness. Topics include entanglement and attunement as underlying principles of psychological and physical reality, experimental and phenomenological studies of shared consciousness with humans and other species, and contemplative practices that promote individual and societal health and well-being. Prerequisite: BCONSC 322.