from Conscious Emotional
Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
The distinction between the unconscious and the conscious being of the mental
state.… is the sovereign means for believing what one likes in psychology, and of
turning what might become a science into a tumbling-ground for whimsies (James,
1890/1950, p. 163).
For William James and his contemporaries, conscious thought was not simply the outflow of hidden psychological mechanisms, but the primary object of study for a science of psychology. Admitting the existence of unconscious mental states, therefore, threatened to strip psychology of its basic claim for legitimacy as a science, the data base. No wonder, therefore, that there was widespread skepticism to the notion of unconscious mental processes.
James's emphasis on conscious psychological activity is consistent with psy-