Believed or not thanks to the unconscious, we take decisions every moment, against people might think; in other words, the conscious show what is inside the unconscious.

There are many experiments in order to probe that, let’s talk about one of them.

Liad Mudrik and Dominique Lamy of Tel Aviv University and Assaf Breska and Leon Y. Deouell of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem set out to test the extent to which the unconscious can integrate all the information in any one picture into a unified and coherent visual experience.

Mudrik, L., Breska, A., Lamy, D., & Deouell, L. Y. (2011.  Integration without awareness: expanding the limits of unconscious processing. Psychological Science. [Online] 22, 764–770.  Available from: http://www.mudriklab.tau.ac.il/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Mudrik_et_al_2011_Psych_Sci.pdf [Accessed: 22th June 2016]


Giulio Tononi and Kristoff Koch (2011) had proposed that the ability to rapidly integrate all the disparate elements within a scene and place them into context is one of the hallmarks of consciousness. Koch, K. (2011). Probing the unconscious mind. Scientificamerican.com [Online]. 1th November 2011. Available from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/probing-the-unconscious-mind/ [Accessed: 22th June 2016]

The Israeli researchers used “continuous flash suppression,” a powerful masking technique, to render images invisible. A series of rapidly changing, randomly colored patterns was flashed into one eye while a photograph of a person carrying out some task was slowly faded into the other eye. For a few seconds, the picture is completely invisible, and the subject can see only the colored shapes. Because the images become progressively stronger, eventually they will break through, and the subject will see them.

Is fascinating how the time to become visible depends on the content of the image. Realistic scenes that depict a woman placing a pizza into an oven, a boy taking aim with a bow and arrow, or a basketball player dunking a ball into a hoop took 2.64 seconds to become visible, whereas unnatural scenes were masked for only 2.50 seconds, a small but significant difference. That is, the unconscious mind detected something incongruent about these pictures: a woman puts a chessboard into the oven, the cocked arrow is replaced by a tennis racket, and the basketball becomes a watermelon. The psychologists made sure that both congruent and incongruent images were truly invisible and could not be distinguished from one another when masked in this way. This discovery implies that the unconscious can recognize something is amiss in these images, that the object handled by the person in the image is not appropriate to the context. Koch, K. (2011). Probing the Unconscious Mind. Scientific American Mind. [Online] p.20-21 Available from: http://www.klab.caltech.edu/koch/CR/CR-Probing-the-unconscious-Nov-11 [Accessed: 22th June 2016]

They wonder how the mind recognizes that and they think it could be because the vast and tangled neural networks of the cerebral cortex that encode images have learned that certain objects go together but others do not.

What is true is the fact that unconscious plays an important role in our life even thought more of the times it is imperceptible.

Ruth Talavera Flores


Research Associate & IRIANS’s Representative for

the Iberian Peninsula and Mexico

IRIANS – The Neuroscience Institute


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