Demystifying the Nonconscious:
Unintentional Discrimination in
Society and the Media
Robert W. Livingston
University of Wisconsin-Madison
As early as the 19th century, psychologists proposed that human thought and behaviorwere largely influenced by nonconscious impulses (Freud, 1896/1963) and could be easily habituated, obviating the needfor conscious intervention (James, 1890). Conceptualizations of“automaticity” weretheoretically refined and empirically substantiatedin the latterhalf of the 20th century as research ers continued to examine the impact of nonconscious processes on socialperception and behavior (see Bargh, 1994; Wegner & Bargh, 1998 forreview). Automatic processes are generally by at least one of four components: awareness, intent, control, or efficiency (Bargh, 1994). To besure, the re isnostrict dichotomybetween exclusively conscious and automatic processes; most thoughts and behaviors fall somewhere on a continuum between the se twoextremes (Bargh, 1994). However, forpurposes of This chapter, any thoughtor behavior that showsevidence of occurring outside of conscious awareness, intent, or control will be considered automatic. 1 I begin thechapter with a discussion of the role of automaticity in everyday thoughtand behavior, by an over view of the research on automatic bias in intergroup perception and behavior. In The final section, I explorethe issue of nonconscious bias in the media and advertising.
Contrary to the intuitive assumption that individuals know why the ydo what theydo, early automaticity research showed that people possess surprisingly little