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Experimental report and counterargument about the unconscious at the end of the 1990s

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.


Until the end of the 1990s, reports of various experiments on the unconscious and lively counterarguments.

From the 1970s to the end of the 1990s, various experiments on the unconscious were carried out.

It seems that there was an exchange such as a lively counterargument to it.

An experiment by Anthony Marcel, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge in the 1970s.

Using masking technology, flash words only for periods below the limit of conscious perception.

  • Reported that all subjects did not see anything by this method.

  • The subject could not perceive even if he taught a hidden word.

  • He flashed words about colours such as "blue" and "red".

  • The subject reported that he could not see the flashed word,

  • The next time I asked to choose the corresponding colour, it responded about one-twentieth of a second faster than when an irrelevant word was displayed.

I think this is evidence that the subject's brain is unknowingly processing hidden words down to their meaning.

A skeptical counterargument to Marcel's experiment

The subject's report at the end of the experiment, "I couldn't see any words,"

There is no solid proof that they never saw the prime word.

The evaluation of whether the subject noticed the prime word is

It needs to be as objective and meticulous as possible.

The prime word only looks real if it imposes secondary tasks such as letting the subject dare to guess what the hidden word is, or classify it according to specific criteria, and the grades are random. It can be said that it was not.

A paper in Nature magazine by Seattle psychologist Anthony Greenwald in 1996.

He asked subjects to emotionally classify positive and negative words.

At this time, the prime words invisible to the subject were displayed prior to these visible target words.

Both target and prime pairs were positive or negative word combinations. The experimental results showed that better results were obtained in case 1 than in case 2.

Cases that reinforce each other's meaning (such as "happy" and "joy"),

Inconsistent cases (such as "Frape" and "joy")

It was hoped that finally, evidence was found that the emotional meaning was unknowingly activated, but ...

Greenwald's own remorseful view.

The experiment used only a few words repeatedly.

Perhaps because the subject frequently responded to the same word in a limited amount of time,

It may be that the character string itself, not the meaning, was linked to "positive" or "negative".

In the experiment, the same words were repeatedly presented as prime words and target words, and subjects always classified them according to the same rules.

After the subject consciously classified the word "happy" as positive 20 times, the meaning of "character string <happy> positive>" was abandoned in the subject's brain, and the direct reaction pathway. May have been completed.

There was no doubt that priming happened below the threshold, but it turned out to be ignoring the meaning.

Greenwald first showed that prime words, which were reordered to be meaningless, were as effective as the correct ones. For example, both "happy" and "hypap" functioned as prime words with similar strength.

He then carefully manipulated the similarities between the words visible as targets and the hidden words presented as primes. In one definitive experiment, he displayed "tulip" and "humor" as targets.

Subjects naturally classified them as "positive." Greenwald then combined these two words and used the word "tumor," which has a negative meaning, to make it unconsciously displayed.

Notably, the negative word "tumor" unknowingly elicited a reaction that classified the target word as positive. In other words, it can be seen that the subject's brain treated the word "tumor" and the two words "tulip" and "humor" from which it was derived in the same line under the struggle, even though their meanings were opposite to each other. I did.

It turns out that Greenwald's experiments did involve unconscious perception, but not the deep meaning of the word.

It just relies on the mapping of letters and reactions, not the meaning of the words.

Unconscious processing is not very smart.

The unconscious seems to work more than I thought,

Don't be too overconfident.

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