DOI: 10.14704/nq.2016.14.2.936

Why Consciousness? Teaching and Learning at the Leading Edge of Mind Science

Kathleen D. Noble, John J. Crotty, Aarshin Karande, Alexa Lavides, Andrzej Montaño


Interest in the study of consciousness is growing rapidly among the general population but it has yet to make inroads into mainstream higher education because of the long-standing taboo that has denied the subject legitimacy as a serious area of academic inquiry. In 2014, however, the University of Washington Bothell campus formally launched a transdisciplinary and integral Minor in Consciousness, the first of its kind at a public research institution in North America. A four-year study explored the intellectual and personal effects of studying consciousness from this perspective for undergraduate students who enrolled in the first course in the Minor’s sequence during Autumn Quarter 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015. Results indicated that students’ beliefs about consciousness and reality changed significantly over a ten-week period, becoming markedly less materialistic and more open to information that they had previously eschewed. By the end of each year’s course students reported feeling increased optimism, hope, and a desire to learn more, and a corresponding decrease in feelings of depression, anxiety, and nihilism. Introducing the study of consciousness within the context of scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts proved particularly efficacious and may be a useful strategy for those who are interested in teaching or learning about consciousness in less than supportive academic environments.


consciousness; transdisciplinary; integral; higher education

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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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