unconscious, in psychology, that aspect of mental life that is separate from immediate consciousness and is not subject to recall at will. Sigmund Freud regarded the unconscious as a submerged but vast portion of the mind. In his view, the unconscious was composed of the id, which accounts for instinctual drives, acts as the motivating force in human behavior, and contains desires and wishes that the individual hides—or represses—from conscious recognition; and part of the superego, the system that acts to restrain and control id impulses. Conscious cognitive processes, such as thinking, are performed by the ego and part of the superego (see psychoanalysis). Conflict between conscious and unconscious impulses are said to give rise to anxiety, then to defense mechanisms, which counteract this anxiety. To tap the unconscious, Freud used a variety of techniques, including hypnosis, free association, and dream interpretation. C. G. Jung expanded on the Freudian concept, adding the idea of an inherited unconscious, known as the collective unconscious. The idea of the unconscious has been rejected by some psychological schools, although it is still used by many psychoanalysts. The term unconscious is also used to describe latent, or unretrieved, memories, or to describe stimuli too weak to enter an individual's conscious awareness.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Subconscious: Selected full-text books and articles

The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry
Henri F. Ellenberger.
Basic Books, 1970
FREE! Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido
C. G. Jung; Beatrice M. Hinkle.
Moffat, Yard, 1916
Beyond Laughter: Humor and the Subconscious
Martin Grotjahn.
McGraw-Hill, 1966
Claude Levi-Strauss: Social Psychotherapy and the Collective Unconscious
Thomas Shalvey.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1979
The Right Brain and the Unconscious: Discovering the Stranger Within
R. Joseph.
Plenum Press, 1992
The Analytic Freud: Philosophy and Psychoanalysis
Michael P. Levine.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Moral Authenticity and the Unconscious" and Chap. 10 "Freud on Unconscious Affects, Mourning and the Erotic Mind"
Freudian Repression: Conversation Creating the Unconscious
Michael Billig.
Cambridge University Press, 1999
The Unconscious
Antony Easthope.
Routledge, 1999
Implicit Cognition
Geoffrey Underwood.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Beyond Perception: Conceptual Contributions to Unconscious Influences of Memory"
The Unconscious as Infinite Sets: An Essay in Bi-Logic
Ignacio Matte Blanco.
Karnac Books, 1998 (Revised edition)
The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis
A. C. MacIntyre.
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958
FREE! The Subconscious
Joseph Jastrow.
Houghton Mifflin, 1906
FREE! The Psychology of Suggestion: A Research into the Subconscious Nature of Man and Society
Boris Sidis.
D. Appleton, 1920
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.