Conscience vs. conscious — these words are often confused with one another. And while both are related to the mind, each is a specific cognitive process.
Knowing the difference between these two concepts is important. The more you understand how your mind works, the better able you’ll be to use it to your advantage.
In this short article, we’ll give you a simple breakdown of the definitions, and the differences between conscience and consciousness to help you learn how these cognitive processes work.
So let’s start with the basics.
Conscience vs. Conscious: A Definition
To break this down into digestible information, we recommend first defining conscience vs conscious through a basic academic explanation:
What is the definition of the conscious?
conscious | \ con·scious \
- Being aware of your own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.
- To be alert and fully awake. (i.e. / The soccer ball hit him on the head and knocked him out unconscious)
Basically, what you focus on exists in your conscious awareness. To be aware of your own physical and mental self, and to further be aware of an ability to control yourself, your actions, and your thoughts.
Anything that you find yourself aware of, can be defined as consciousness.
What is the definition of the conscience?
conscience | \ con·science \
- the sense or feeling of some moral code of self goodness.
- The responsibility of one’s own actions, intentions, or character coupled with the feeling of obligation to do what is right (i.e. / She had a guilty conscience after she stole the money).
In other words, your conscience is your mind’s process that evokes emotion and rational associations in you based on your moral values and your built-in sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.
Are Conscience and Conscious the Same?
Both words have to do with the mind. One is not more important than the other.
They both serve a unique function of keeping you aware of yourself and your surroundings (conscious), and the other acts as an inner guide (conscience) to your morals of what is right and or wrong, and your self-growth.
These two processes are quite unique. In fact, when it comes to conscience vs conscious, a more thorough explanation is definitely needed.
The more we understand these mental processes, the better.
We need to understand how our minds work so we can work our minds better.— Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Quest
The conscious mind: Your present moment awareness
Consciousness is a state of being cognitively aware in the present moment. In a state of full consciousness, you absorb all of the sights, sounds, and activities around you.
When you’re in a park, you are aware of people strolling, children playing, mothers chatting, and empty benches in the shade. You’re awake and alert. You feel fresh, sharp, and aware.
The conscience: Your moral compass
Your conscience is your moral sense of right or wrong. It’s your moral compass. It’s what makes you feel good or bad about the actions you take.
Your conscience is always present. Whether you choose to listen to it or not is a different matter. Remorse is one of the most powerful expressions of a guilty conscience. When we lie, cheat, steal, or hurt someone, our conscience is responsible for our feelings of guilt.
What Exactly Is Your Conscience?
Your conscience is your idea of what is right or wrong. It is influenced by your personal beliefs and desires. In the conscious vs conscience discussion, the idea of what is ethical or unethical, or moral or immoral is debatable.
Do you try to follow your inner sense of right and wrong? If you do, that means you’re listening to your conscience.
Everyone has a conscience. Whether they choose to listen and act on that conscience? Well, that’s a different story.
But the more you listen to the inner voice guiding you to what feels good and honest and right, the better you’ll feel.
What Does It Mean to Be Conscious?
So, we now have a better understanding of the conscience. But how does the conscious mind work?
Well, your conscious mind is responsible for what happens in the now. It involves paying attention to what is happening around you.
In a state of full consciousness, you are actively receiving sensory information from your environment. You are entirely open to the experience you’re having.
Believe it or not, being in a state of full consciousness isn’t all that easy to achieve. It involves being entirely aware. And that awareness is key.
Awareness about what has the potential to change in your environment is called the observer effect. Although the observer effect is a concept in physics, it can also be applied to mental processes.
A conscious mind can affect reality. When your mind connects fully to the present moment, it has the power to change what’s happening around you.
But, there is a catch. As a fully conscious observer, you can only affect reality if you then choose to take action. Conscious awareness alone isn’t enough.
What is the conscious and subconscious mind and how are they different?
The conscious mind identifies information from its immediate environment. The subconscious mind is a vast memory bank. It brings to awareness the information it has stored.
Picture this: you’re at the park when you notice a kid putting sand in his mouth. Your conscious mind is what’s aware of the event.
Subconsciously, you recall a past experience in which you saw a child choke. You decide to quickly alert the child’s mother with a wave and shout.
A popular explanation for the conscious and subconscious mind is the iceberg metaphor. The conscious mind is just the tip of the iceberg. The subconscious mind is what lies below the water.
We can access our subconscious mind most readily when we dream. That’s when the subconscious takes over.
Some say that dreams are our subconscious mind’s way of helping us sort through the problems we face in our lives. Dreams are where we process latent thoughts and emotions stored in the subconscious mind.