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Can the unconscious understand the meaning of a word without consciousness?

Updated: May 29, 2022

(Cognitive science) In coaching, rewriting the unconscious is a powerful means of achieving the goal.

By studying "Study of Consciousness", I would like to think about my method and the coaching theory, such as unconscious rewriting.

This series of blog posts is my study note.


Our visual system can unknowingly assemble some letters into words.

"Can you understand the meaning of a word without being aware of it? Is it necessary to be aware of one word?"

So far, this question has been argued by two groups of scientists.

Understanding (comprehension etymologically "grabbing together", collecting fragments of meaning by "common sense judgment")

Consciousness ("knowing together") is

They are so closely connected within the mind that they can be considered almost synonymous.

How does a language work if you need to be aware of basic processing such as "understanding" the meaning of a word?

We are not consciously processing the meaning of each word before assembling the words into a consistent sentence.

Consciousness should focus on the overall issue and logic.

At first glance, each word fits into the overall structure of the discussion. We do not introspect the sign's arousal of meaning.

After 30 years of psychological research and brain imaging research, they reached the conclusions.

The controversy began in the 1950s with the study of the "cocktail party effect."

The cocktail party effect is the function of the brain that allows you to unknowingly select the information you need or essential information from among many sounds. It was proposed by British cognitive psychologist Colin Cherry in 1953 and is also known as selective listening and selective attention.

Attention acts as a filter to select a particular voice and throw away everything else.

Suddenly behind the scenes, one of the guests calls your name in a soft voice. Immediately you directed your attention to this person.

As a result of your brain processing words that were not of interest, those words appear in your consciousness as an image that means your name.

This effect can be confirmed through careful experimentation, in which unattended words influence the judgment in the conversation at which they are paying attention.

The subject denies the division of attention and categorically claims that he had not heard the conversation flow before the experient called your name.

The subject may have turned his attention quickly from one conversational flow to another. Or maybe one or two words were passing between conversations. Cocktail party effects, which are very impressive in everyday life, also pose many difficulties when used in the laboratory to verify unconscious processing.

In the 1970s, Cambridge University psychologist Anthony Marcel used masking techniques to experiment with flashing words for periods below the limits of conscious perception.

This way, I could create a situation where I couldn't see.

All the subjects who underwent this experiment reported that they "did not see anything." So even if I thought there was a hidden word, I couldn't perceive it.

Even if I forced him to say something, I couldn't reply whether it was an English word or a random collection of consonants.

He flashed words about colours such as "blue" and "red" in one crucial experiment. Subjects reported that they could not see the flashed word. Still, when asked to select the corresponding colour, they responded approximately one-twentieth of a second faster than when other irrelevant words were displayed. Did.

In other words, the prime word for colour, which was not visible to the subject, guided the subject to choose the corresponding colour.

The subject's brain unknowingly captures the meaning of the hidden word.

In this experiment, we discovered that the brain unknowingly processes all the meanings of words, including ambiguous ones. And those that are irrelevant to the context.

For example, suppose you whisper the word "bank" to your ear.

You may think that you are talking about the "bank" after the "bank" first comes to mind.

Consciously, it seems that you are aware of only one meaning at the same time.

Which meaning is chosen is contextual.

If Robert Redford's beautiful movie "River Runs Through It" (1992, USA) is talked about, the word "bank" derives a meaning related to water.

"Bank" induces "water" by showing a word such as "river" first and induces the word "money" by showing "save" first.

The critical point is that adaptation to context seems to occur only at the level of consciousness.

According to Marcel's observations, masking the prime word to make it unconscious activates both meanings.

In other words, flushing "bank" induces both "money" and "water", even if the context "rivers have a strong meaning".

The unconscious mind stores all the semantic connections that one word can bring out simultaneously.

The unconscious presents various meanings, and the consciousness chooses from them.

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