Ezequiel Morsella Ph.D.

Consciousness and the Brain


The Unconscious Mind in Everyday Life

How does the unconscious influence what you do in everyday life?

Posted Jun 05, 2017

When speaking about the sophistication of unconscious processes, I often mention motor programming, peristalsis, and syntax, which is one of our highest abilities. These processes are mediated unconsciously but are quite sophisticated, and there are many more such processes in the brain, as most of nervous function is unconscious.

Over the years, I have learned that, when speaking about these unconscious capacities, people outside the field want to hear more. They want to hear, for example, about how the unconscious mind could be influencing how they act when they go to a restaurant, which goals they decide to have, why they like some things but not others, and why, all of the sudden, they are craving a snack. That is, they want to hear about the unconscious in everyday life.

My research focuses on very basic processes (e.g., unconscious pupil dilation versus the conscious urge to breathe while underwater), so there is little that I could say about the unconscious mind in everyday life. All I can do is point these people to the findings from a handful of labs. This means that they must read a handful of scientific articles, some of which are quite esoteric. I have often been asked, Is there one accessible book that synthesizes all of these interesting findings?

There is finally a book that does this and more. It is a new book by the world’s leading authority on the topic of the unconscious mind.  The book, by Prof. John Bargh from Yale University, is cleverly titled, Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do. (I should mention that I had the great privilege of carrying out my postdoctoral research with Prof. Bargh and that I continue to learn from him about the unconscious mind and many other things.)

Wikipedia PD
Source: Wikipedia PD

The publication of the long awaited book is quite an event in the field. Prof. Gottman (University of Washington) states that Before You Know It is “The most important and exciting book in psychology that has been written in the last twenty years” (Prof. John Gottman). According to Prof. Daniel Gilbert at Harvard University, “John Bargh is—without exception, without exaggeration, and without competition—the world’s foremost authority on the unconscious mind.”  I agree with Jonah
Berger who adds that the book “will change the way you see yourself
and the world around you.” I thought the readers of the blog would be interested in this development.