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Conversations with the Human Unconscious

In recent decades the cognitive sciences are acknowledging that an increasing number of functions and processes occur non-consciously. As our understanding of non-conscious processes increases, it becomes apparent that non-conscious processes are responsible for more aspects of our behavior than we previously assumed. We seek to enhance our understanding of human behavior by opening a new methodological and theoretical chapter in our scientific understanding of the human unconscious. Specifically, we are interested in examining the effects of non-conscious subjective experiences (phenomenology) in modulating human behavior. 


Our research focuses on self-control dilemmas, where conscious phenomenology plays a major role, because these conflicts are important theoretically and practically for individuals and societies. For the first time in the history of experimental psychology our proposed research will allow us to conduct verbal conversations with the human unconscious. Using cutting edge techniques developed in our laboratories, we will pose questions to the non-conscious mind, and probe for answers. We will show that non-conscious phenomenology (experiences that we have without knowing that we have them) plays a crucial role in self-control, thereby opening the gates for a new frontier in the study of volition. Aside from developing a ground breaking method for measuring non-conscious subjective reports, our project will also lead to high impact journal articles, as well as conference presentations and media exposure. Our research methods will enable scientists to engage in conversing with unconscious human processes, which should open the floodgates for explorations of the human mind that were hitherto beyond the reach of the cognitive sciences.


Primary Investigators: Ran Hassin (HUJI) and Benjamin Young (UNR)

Executive Board: Walter Michel (Columbia), Melissa Ferguson (Cornell), and

       David Rosenthal (CUNY)

Duration: 33 months starting in December

Funding Organization: The John Templeton Foundation

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