College students in many different majors can benefit from studying how the mind works. Subjects such as pre-med, law and education all cover many psychology research topics. But what is the mind? And what is the mind-body connection?
The field is wide open with hundreds, if not thousands of ways to explore research paper topics on the mind.
What is the mind?
Many people are confused by the term “mind.” Does it include the brain? Is it the spiritual aspect of our personality? Our consciousness? The brain is a physical organ in our body, and scientists know much about its workings. Mental processes of thought and consciousness are harder to examine because thought cannot be seen.
Is thought and consciousness purely a product of physiological and neurophysiological processes, or are they independent of the body? How do the mind and the physical body interact? The question is a dilemma known as the mind-body problem.
Linda B. Glaser summarized research into the question in her March 8, 2016, article for Cornell University College of Arts & Sciences, “Understanding the mind.” She said, “Technological metaphors have always been used to explain the mind: John Locke described an infant’s mind as a blank slate; Freud compared the mind to hydraulic and electro-magnetic systems. The current favorite metaphor is that the mind is a computer.”
The belief of the mind as a computer takes the debate into such far flung areas as philosophy and science fiction. If we can create a computer that has consciousness, then does it also have legal rights?
Dualism and philosophy of the mind
In the philosophy of the mind, the mind-body problem is referred to as dualism. It is the theory that the mind and brain are different things.
Howard Robinson published a February 29, 2016, revision of his August 19, 2003, treatise on “Dualism” for The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Over the centuries, the mind-body question has generated many diverse schools of thought. Great thinkers who have pondered and written on the question include:
- Thomas Aquinas
- Rene Descartes
Robinson said, “In sum, we can say that there is a mind-body problem because both consciousness and thought, broadly construed, seem very different from anything physical and there is no convincing consensus on how to build a satisfactorily unified picture of creatures possessed of both a mind and a body.”
A look at the neuroscience
The study of the mind encompasses a myriad of possible research paper topics. A good place to start your research is at Questia. Some of the topics that you could explore are:
In Freudian psychology, conscious behavior largely includes cognitive processes of the ego, such as thinking, perception and planning, as well as some aspects of the superego, such as moral conscience. In recent years, neuropsychologists have begun to investigate the links between consciousness and memory, as well as altered states of consciousness, such as the dream state.
One possible resource available at Questia is the book, Consciousness in Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience by Antti Revonsuo and Matti Kamppinen.
This volume presents the thoughts of some of the leading philosophers and cognitive scientists who have recently participated in the discussion of the status of consciousness in science. The writers presented alternative solutions to the brain-consciousness problem, and they discussed how the unification of biological and psychological sciences could thus become feasible.
Characteristics of the mind include:
- Qualia: sensory components of an experience that include physical sensations, emotions and moods
- Intentionality: mental states that are specified by referring to things outside of oneself
- Subjectivity: the quality of an experience that is unique to you
“So we must seek help in the field that is called cognitive science: the joint effort of philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and artificial intelligence researchers to uncover the mechanisms of minds and intelligent systems in general,” Revonsuo and Kamppinen explained.
What topic related to the study of the mind interests you the most? Tell us in the comments.