Conscious and Unconscious Processes: Theory and Measurement, 2018-2019

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Conscious and Unconscious Processes: Theory and Measurement, 2018-2019

Teaching staff
Axel Cleeremans (Université libre de Bruxelles), Hans Marien (Utrecht University), Ruud Custers (Utrecht University)

Type of course
Theory-oriented Workshops

November 1 and November 2, 2018

Utrecht University

2 days


1.0 ECTS

Most theories in social psychology either explicitly or implicitly assume that of the processes that drive emotions, social cognition, and behavior, some occur with and others without conscious awareness. While the first decade of this century was characterized by a strong emphasis on unconscious processes, the pendulum is now swinging back, with researching focusing more on the nature of conscious processes. The emerging picture is one in which conscious and unconscious processes interact in perhaps unexpected ways. While exciting progress is being made, definitions and measurements of (the absence of) consciousness used in social psychology sometimes lack the precision that may be required to understand the role of consciousness in the processes under investigation.

In this workshop we aim to familiarize students with the state-of-art in consciousness research, both when it comes to theorizing and measurement techniques. The first day of the workshop will focus on theory of consciousness. We will discuss the philosophical concept, it neurological basis and theories of its origin. Then we will focus on how conscious versus unconscious processes play a role in various psychological processes. The second day of the workshop will focus on the measurement of unconscious processes. Together with Professor Axel Cleeremans (expert in the field of consciousness research) the inherent problems surrounding the demonstration of unconscious processes will be discussed: Is it possible to demonstrate empirically that processes can occur in the absence of conscious awareness? Is there an object threshold of conscious awareness? Is conscious awareness graded? Moreover, we focus on the measurement of conscious processes: Can we measure the content of consciousness without influencing it? Can people accurately reflect on their conscious processes? Does probing for conscious awareness make people conscious of things they weren’t conscious of before?

Day 1

Procedurally, the first day will be divided in two parts. First, dr. Custers will introduce the day by exploring the theoretical assumptions about conscious and unconscious processes in social psychology. Next, prof. Cleeremans will provide a talk on theory of consciousness. Together with required reading, these talks are essential to create a firm theoretical grounding for the students. Finally, a group of students will be invited to present their own research, reflecting specifically on the theoretical assumptions regarding (un)conscious processes that are made.

Day 2

On the second day, we will focus on the measurement of conscious and unconscious processes. First, dr. Marien will reflect on the measurement of conscious awareness in social psychology, pointing out challenges and opportunities for improvement. Second, prof. Cleermans will give a talk on the measurement of conscious awareness. At the end of the talk, there will be a discussion of how to tailor the insights from consciousness research on measurement to the needs of social psychology. Finally, another group of students will present their research, reflecting specifically on the measurement of conscious or unconscious processes in their research.



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