The power of the unconscious

Freud's iceberg is now pop culture. It is generally accepted that what we experience consciously is just the tip of the iceberg, with our true motifs hidden in the deep unconscious. 

In fact, consciousness may not be needed at all. Invisible pictures of national flags can influence who we vote for, invisible sentences can be read unconsciously, and invisible mathematical equations can be solved unconsciously. If consciousness has no function, why did it emerge at all in evolution? 

Not so fast

In my research, I focus on unconscious processing of visual stimuli. It turns out that many claims for an almighty unconscious are based on weak evidence. Studies do not convincingly rule out conscious awareness, have serious methodological issues, or cannot be replicated.

These issues are so severe that, at present, it is impossible to tell whether a powerful unconscious exists. In a recent survey of the most influential studies I found little convincing evidence for unconscious visual processing beyond basic stimulus properties, such as wavelength or shape.

The way forward

We are developing a framework for the experimental study of unconscious information processing. Studies built up on our framework will map out the scope and limits of unconscious information processing.

Is unconscious processing limited to basic stimulus properties, such as wavelength or shape? Can faces be detected unconsciously? Can meaning be extracted unconsciously? If you are interested in joining this research line, contact me.