Power of Nonconscious Brain Processes

Standard
  • Oftentimes our moods, thoughts, judgments, goals, and behaviors are driven not by conscious intentions and deliberate choices, but rather by nonconscious, automatic processes
  • Our initial work revealed that individuals can be supraliminally or subliminally primed with information processing goals, and then pursue those goals outside of their awareness and intent

Much of contemporary psychological research is based on the assumption that people consciously and systematically process incoming information in the environment, and then intentionally use the output of this processing to plan and engage in courses of action.

My collaborators and I are interested in exploring the automatic processing of our social environment. It is our contention that much of our daily life is determined by mental processes that are put into motion by features of the environment, which then operate without our awareness or conscious intervention.

Specifically, we attempt to identify the nonconscious mechanisms that drive affect, cognition, and behavior, and elucidate their respective mediators and moderators.

Our first major area of research focuses on nonconscious goal pursuit:

  • The basic notion is that individuals are not always consciously aware of the goals they are pursuing in any given social situation
  • Goals can be automatically activated by various aspects of the environment, and then individuals pursue these goals and engage in goal-directed cognition and action without any conscious intervention or recognition of the goal’s guiding role.

Our research has explored the entire nonconscious goal pursuit sequence, from initial goal activation and goal striving, to succeeding and failing at the goal and the consequences that arise from this.

  • First, our initial work revealed that individuals can be supraliminally or subliminally primed with information processing goals, and then pursue those goals outside of their awareness and intent
  • More recently, we have explored how these nonconscious goals become activated in more naturalistic settings. That is, what aspects of social situations set these nonconscious goals into motion?

We have discovered that there are important downstream consequences of succeeding and failing at nonconscious goals for mood, self-enhancement, aggression, and performance.  Finally, we are exploring potential differences between conscious and nonconscious goal pursuit.

Overall, our research demonstrates that automatic processes are usually in service of the individual.

  • That is, they are adaptive, not only for saving much-needed cognitive resources, but for facilitating social interactions
  • Our work has also identified a number of important consequences of nonconscious processes
  • Such processes affect mood, information processing, motivation, judgments, behavior, and social interactions – in other words, virtually all aspects of human existence.

Source of this material