Study shows people capable of reading and solving math equations subconsciously
This is a brain reading under the water surface -- a metaphor for unconscious recognition. Credit: Drawing by Rinat Laor
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have found that contrary to popular thinking, people are capable of reading sentences and solving math problems without consciously thinking about them. The team describes their experiments and results in testing such abilities in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists have known for some time that people are capable of reading single words when their mind is elsewhere, but now, new research shows that they are also capable of reading entire sentences and grasping the content of them while their conscious mind is busy thinking about something else. They've also discovered that people are also capable of solving simple math problems subconsciously.
To come to these conclusions, the team used a technique known as Continues Flash Suppression (CFS) to present target information to volunteer subjects subconsciously. The technique involves displaying target information to one eye while simultaneously displaying colorful images to the other. The colorful images demand so much attention that the target information is not noticed, at least in the conscious mind.
In the first exercise, volunteers were shown short word phrases during a CFS session; some of which made sense some of which were nonsensical. Afterwards, they were asked to recall the phrase. The researchers found that the volunteers were able to recall the nonsensical phrases faster than those that made sense, indicating they had been understood while still in a subconscious state.
In the second exercise, the researchers used CFS to flash a simple plus/minus type mathematical equation, minus the answer, to one eye, while the other received the colorful images. Afterwards, each volunteer was asked to say out loud a number that was presented to them. The researchers found that response times were shorter when the number shown matched the answer to the math equation they had been shown.
Thus far, CFS is only able to distract the mind from perceiving information for just a couple of seconds, thus, the types of data that can be tested is limited by the amount of information (or its mathematical complexity) that could reasonably be expected to be absorbed in such a short time period. But the results suggest that people might be processing a lot of information in their daily lives that they aren't aware of because their mind is elsewhere, a finding that the researchers suggest, means that views on subconscious awareness and thought processing, perhaps needs updating.
More information: Reading and doing arithmetic nonconsciously, PNAS, Published online before print November 12, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211645109
The modal view in the cognitive and neural sciences holds that consciousness is necessary for abstract, symbolic, and rule-following computations. Hence, semantic processing of multiple-word expressions, and performing of abstract mathematical computations, are widely believed to require consciousness. We report a series of experiments in which we show that multiple-word verbal expressions can be processed outside conscious awareness and that multistep, effortful arithmetic equations can be solved unconsciously. All experiments used Continuous Flash Suppression to render stimuli invisible for relatively long durations (up to 2,000 ms). Where appropriate, unawareness was verified using both objective and subjective measures. The results show that novel word combinations, in the form of expressions that contain semantic violations, become conscious before expressions that do not contain semantic violations, that the more negative a verbal expression is, the more quickly it becomes conscious, and that subliminal arithmetic equations prime their results. These findings call for a significant update of our view of conscious and unconscious processes.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
© 2012 Medical Xpress
- New brain research refutes results of earlier studies that cast doubts on free will Aug 07, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Eye movements reveal readers' wandering minds Aug 30, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Ethnic minorities are 'silent sufferers' of chronic fatigue syndrome Mar 21, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Psychologists reveal how emotion can shut down high-level mental processes without our knowledge May 08, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- 'Directed thinking' increases time spent exercising Jun 24, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
12 hours ago From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
The latest makeover to a massive psychiatric tome honored by some, reviled by others and even called the "Bible" of mental disorders is being released Saturday with a host of new changes.
Psychology & Psychiatry 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—Most Medicare beneficiaries treated in inpatient psychiatric facilities (IPFs) exhibit characteristics associated with hospital readmission, according to a report prepared for the National Association ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
Skydivers show the same level of physical stress before every jump whether a first-timer or experienced jumper, say Northumbria researchers.
Psychology & Psychiatry May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
Children of depressed parents pick up on their parents' sadness—whether mom or dad realizes their mood or not.
Psychology & Psychiatry May 17, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (2) | 1 |
(HealthDay)—As many as one in five American children under the age of 17 has a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to a new federal report.
Psychology & Psychiatry May 16, 2013 | 2.2 / 5 (5) | 1 |
An increasing number of U.S. children are experiencing gastrointestinal issues that require interventions to resolve, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW).
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A new case of the deadly coronavirus has been detected in Saudi Arabia where 15 people have already died after contracting it, the health ministry announced on Saturday on its Internet website.
3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Big names in medicine are set to give an upbeat assessment of the war on AIDS on Tuesday, 30 years after French researchers identified the virus that causes the disease.
13 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
14 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
A ground-breaking advance in colonoscopy technology signals the future of colorectal care, according to research presented today at Digestive Disease Week(DDW). Additional research focuses on optimizing the minimal withdrawal ...
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
In 2008 researchers from the University of Southern Denmark showed that the drug thioridazine, which has previously been used to treat schizophrenia, is also a powerful weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as ...
23 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |