The adaptive unconscious is a set of mental processes influencing judgment and decision making, in a way that is inaccessible to introspective awareness. This conception of the unconscious mind has emerged in cognitive psychology. It was influenced by, but different from, other views on the unconscious mind such as Sigmund Freud's.
The adaptive unconscious is distinguished from conscious processing in a number of ways, including being faster, effortless, more focused on the present, and less flexible.
In other theories of the mind, the unconscious is limited to "low-level" activity, such as carrying out goals which have been decided consciously. In contrast, the adaptive unconscious is thought to be involved in "high-level" cognition such as goal-setting as well.
According to Freud, the unconscious mind stored a lot of mental content which needs to be repressed. The term adaptive unconscious reflects the idea that much of what the unconscious does is beneficial to the organism; that its various processes have been streamlined by evolution to quickly evaluate and respond to patterns in an organism's environment.
Although research suggests that much of our preferences, attitudes and ideas come from the adaptive unconscious, subjects themselves do not realise this: they are "unaware of their own unawareness". They give verbal explanations of their own mental processes—for example why they chose one thing rather than another—as if they could directly introspect the causes of their ideas and choices. In some experiments, subjects provide explanations that are clearly confabulated, suggesting that introspection is instead an indirect, unreliable process of inference. It has been argued that this "introspection illusion" underlies a number of perceived differences between the self and other people, because people trust these unreliable introspections when forming attitudes about themselves but not about others. However, this theory of the limits of introspection has been highly controversial, and it has been difficult to test unambiguously how much information individuals get from introspection.
1. Thin-Slicing Thin-slicing is the ability to find patterns in behaviors and situations based upon a scope of prior experience. In Blink Gladwell explains a situation at an art museum where they acquire an ancient sculpture, the Getty kouros. Right away art experts called to inspect the piece where able to tell that something was wrong with the statue. Questioning that it was “fresh”, said by Thomas Hoving, a former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “Fresh” was the first word he thought of when seeing the kouros. He was right of course along with other art experts along the thoughts of “intuitive repulsion” when looking at the Kouros. They were able to suspect and identify the falsehood of the kouros in a few seconds, that later took a team of geologist fourteen months to tell what the art experts already knew about the not-so ancient statue.
2. Snap Judgments -Snap Judgments are natural products of the adaptive unconscious, the ability to form an opinion in a blink of an eye. Snap Judgments are the key part of thin-slicing. Snap judgments help us make conclusions on what the adaptive unconscious thin-slices in a situation.
3. The Locked Door -The Locked Door expresses the truth how people can’t explain the logic of snap judgments and the quick decisions people make. Gladwell explains snap judgments and “rapid cognition” take place behind a Locked Door, the unconscious mind that is not assessable. In the Getty Kouros situation the art experts could only form an opinion from their snap judgments and thin slicing. The wrong signals would come up in their minds with no clear reason behind it. No rationale to prove what they could perceive of the Kouros, hidden away behind “The Locked Door”.
4. Mind Reading -Mind Reading is the ability to indicate what someone is thinking or to uncover inner emotions by reading facial expressions. For instance, Silvan Tomkins a scientist who taught psychology at Princeton and Rutgers believed that facial expressions could infer someone’s true emotions and motivation. He would watch the show “To tell the truth”, and always could determine who was lying. Tomkins later partnering up with Paul Ekman could even tell the intentions of two neighboring tribes in the jungles of Papua New Guinea by looking at footage of their interactions. The two tribes were South Fore and Kukukuku (Also known as Angu people). Tomkins knew nothing of the two tribes before seeing the footage, he focused intently on both tribes facial expressions that were displayed close up for his benefit. He pointed at the screen and identified the South Fore tribe as “very peaceful and gentle people” and the Kukukuku tribe as “violent and exhibited evidence that suggested homosexuality” He was right, by only judging people's facial expressions.
5. Priming -Priming is the action of influencing someone’s decisions and actions by subconscious signals. Gladwell suggest after a series of experiments that free will is an illusion or at least is blurred to the aspect of decision-making by outer influences. Psychologist Joshua Aronson and Claude Steele conducted an experiment using black college students. They had them take a test containing questions from a Graduate Record Examination. The twist was that half of the students were primed by a question asking to them to identify their race. These students’ correct answers were cut by half compared to the other group of students, proving that the adaptive unconscious is greatly influenced by society. Furthermore Gladwell implies that the adaptive unconscious does this to react accordingly to what it thinks society desires from it.
6. Warren Harding Error -The Warren Harding Error is the dark-side of the adaptive unconscious when the rapid cognition based on visual information goes wrong, the drawback of thin slicing. Warren Harding was the 29th President of The United States. Malcolm Gladwell uses him as the prime example because Harding didn’t become President because he was a politically known or had the ability to handle highly pressured situations, he became president because he basically looked the part. Harden was a tall, handsome and was very refined and suave. Gladwell compares him to the top CEO’s of America and they fit his description. Gladwell explains this occurrence that people unconsciously respond to stereotypes and looks, reiterating that society primes people’s decisions to act a certain way.
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