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Turnbull, O. Pally, R. (2000). Research Digest. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):103-106.

(2000). Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):103-106

Research Digest

Review by:
Oliver Turnbull

Regina Pally

Featured Article

Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999), The unbearable automaticity of being. Am. Psychol., 54:462-479. This paper offers a comprehensive and readable summary of current developments in cognitive psychology that suggest that consciously controlled processes represent only a small fraction of mental activity—with the vast majority of cognitive activity being automatic and beyond conscious control. It reviews, for example, experiments on “ego depletion,” in which a simple act of self-control in one domain (not being allowed to eat nearby chocolate chip cookies) has a dramatic negative influence on the subject's ability to carry out a quite unrelated cognitive activity (persistence on a verbal task). Because such simple tasks can so dramatically influence self-control, it seems safe to conclude that such voluntary acts play only a small part in mental life—with much of cognition run by automatic systems beyond conscious control. Indeed, one figure which the review cites as the likely extent of voluntary control in mental life is a mere 5%. This suggests an extraordinarily prominent role for unconscious and automatic processes in mental life—surely a figure much greater than is compatible with the widespread belief in free will and self-determination. This remarkable figure even approaches the level proposed by the “fundamental proposition” of psychoanalysis; namely, that all mental processes are unconscious—with consciousness merely being the perception of mental states which are beyond direct experience (Solms, 1997).

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