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Quality or state of being aware. As applied to the lower animals, consciousness refers to the capacity for sensation and, usually, simple volition. In higher animals, this capacity may also include thinking and emotion. In human beings, consciousness is understood to include meta-awareness, an awareness that one is aware. The term also refers broadly to the upper level of mental life of which the person is aware, as contrasted with unconscious processes. Levels of consciousness (e.g., attention vs. sleep) are correlated with patterns of electrical activity in the brain (brain waves). See also philosophy of mind.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on consciousness, visit Britannica.com.