PSC 152 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Automaticity, Intentionality, Controllability

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Published on 15 Jun 2020
Do people consciously and actively choose & control (by acts of will) various
experiences & behaviors, or are those experiences and behaviors instead
determined directly by other factors, such as external stimuli or internal,
unconscious forces?
Bargh argues that more than 95% of cognition happens unconsciously
Freudian unconscious
Place in our minds for storing unacceptable feelings & desires
Freud thought these thoughts were often sexual
Things we don’t like about ourselves & don’t want to think about
Memories that cause us psychological pain (ex: events from childhood)
Freud relied on introspection & case studies
So his research was not very scientific (lacks validity)
Contemporary unconscious
Collection of mental processes that are inaccessible to conscious
Not seen as a place in the mind stored for unpleasant memories
Yet still influence our judgments & behaviors
Adaptive in many cases
Contemporary view sees unconscious thoughts as adaptive
Freud saw unconscious thoughts as contribution toward mental
Ex: being able to make decisions quickly is a survival advantage
Automaticity characterized by several features
Freud only had 2 (unconscious & conscious )
4 horsemen of automaticity
Telling more than we can know
We have little direct access to own mental processes that cause judgment &
Lack of awareness of
Existence of a stimulus that influenced some response (ex: subliminal
A stimulus is present for a short amount of time but we do not
notice it in our conscious mind
How a stimulus influenced some response (ex: supraliminal priming)
Stimulus is present for a long enough time that we notice it and
are conscious of it. BUT we do NOT know HOW that stimulus
causes a response
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When answering “why did you do X?” we give reasons that seem plausible (but
might not be )
We can come up with reasons, but they may not be correct
Clothing quality
Nisbett & Wilson
Ps viewed 4 (identical) pairs of nylon stockings
Which do you like best? Why?
Right- most pair of stockings heavily chosen
4 times more likely than left - most pair
Called right-side bias
“Why did you choose that pair?
I don’t know (followed by some plausible reasons)
None mentioned “right side”
When experimenter explained results, none
believed it was possible
Take home points
Right side bias influences people’s selections
People seem unaware of the right side bias
People gave reasons that could NOT be the actual
reasons for why they liked the stocking they did
Who’s attractive
Johansson et al.
Ps choose which of 2 faces is more attractive
On some trials, experimenter secretly gave Ps the non-chosen
Ps asked to explain their “choice”
Only about 10% noticed switch
Sometimes photos were very dissimilar
Reasons for preference
Always referred to a physical attribute
“I like her because she has dark hair” (chose a
woman with blond hair)
Shows people can come up w/ plausible explanations, but they
are false
People may have little awareness of the actual reasons behind
their decisions
Unintentional (spontaneous)
Is an act of will necessary to set the process in motion?
Ex: Cocktail Party phenomenon
Having conversation w/ others in a loud room. When someone calls out
your name, you will unintentionally notice it
Our name pops out compared to other words
Say the color of font
Remember the sentence
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