Recent Research: Dr. Ezequiel Morsella
Study shows complex ideas can enter consciousness automatically
It's difficult to look at pictures of cars shown on a computer and then keep yourself from saying "car" inside your head the next time one shows up on the screen — even when someone tells you to avoid saying it. Now, a new study led by SF State researcher Ezequiel Morsella concludes that this same automatic effect can occur with much more complicated mental manipulations — for instance, transforming "car" to the pig latin "ar-cay" in your head after you've been told to avoid that transformation.
This surprising effect offers further evidence that the contents of our consciousness — the state of being awake and aware of our surroundings — are often generated involuntarily, said Morsella, an assistant professor of psychology. In fact, the study published in the journal Acta Psychologica provides the first demonstration that even a small amount of training can cause unintentional, high-level symbol manipulation.
"Symbol manipulations such as mentally rotating an object in space, rearranging words or musical notes, or performing math operations — these processes have been regarded as being more multifaceted, and as having more moving parts, in a sense, than the very different process of automatic memory retrieval," Morsella explained. "Our study reveals that unintentional, unconscious processes can be more sophisticated than what has been thought before."