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Chapter Seven. The Social Unconscious

Mahzarin R. Banaji, Kristi M. Lemm and Siri J. Carpenter

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631210344.2002.00009.x


Contemporary social psychologists are aware that long before concepts of cognitive mediation were admissible in scientific psychology, their predecessors had been sufficiently entranced with matters of mind to study them even at risk of marginalization by the then dominant antimentalists. The first social psychologists were bold not so much in their recognition that thinking, feeling, and motivation were fundamental mental systems – for hundreds of years, thinkers even in the western world, had known the same. The unique audacity of these psychologists was in the belief that thought, feeling, and motive could be scrutinized, manipulated, and subjected to experimentation in a manner not unlike the treatment accorded to particles, ions, and bacteria. It should be of little surprise then, that a field so confident a century ago that processes of conscious mental life could indeed be measured is now equally confident about measuring mental life that lies beyond consciousness. Johnson-Laird's (1983) question “What should a theory of consciousness explain?” produced four components, awareness, control, intention , and self-reflection , that a tractable theory of consciousness must explain. The focus of this chapter is on the hidden side of consciousness, which leads us to focus on the inverse of these components: thoughts, feelings, and actions performed outside conscious awareness, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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