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Knowing When To Ask: Introspection and the Adaptive Unconscious

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Abstract:

The introspective method has come under attack throughout the history of psychology, yet it is widely used today in virtually all areas of the field, often to good effect. At the same time indirect methods that do not rely on introspection are widely used, also to good effect. This conundrum is best understood in terms of models of nonconscious processing and the role of consciousness. People have access to many of their feelings and emotions, and develop rich narratives about themselves and their social worlds. These conscious states, accessible to introspective reports, are often good predictors of people’s behaviour. There is also a pervasive adaptive unconscious that is inaccessible via introspection. When using introspective reports researchers should be clear about which kinds of mental states they are trying to measure.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Psychology, 102 Gilmer Hall, PO Box 400400, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400, USA., Email: twilson@virginia.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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