Subconscious Phenomena

Subconscious Phenomena

by Hugo Münsterberg

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Subconscious Phenomena by Hugo Münsterberg, Theodore Ribot, Pierre Janet, Joseph Jastrow

An excerpt from the beginning of the:


There is at present no consensus of opinion, either among psychologists who deal with the normal, or among the medical psychologists who deal with the abnormal, as to the class of phenomena to which the term "subconscious" shall be applied, or, as to the interpretation of these phenomena. Thus, few writers mean the same thing by "subconscious," and even when two writers agree upon the same psychological interpretation of given phenomena each is likely to describe different sets of phenomena under the term. It has seemed accordingly to the Editor that a symposium in which those who deal with the normal and abnormal might thresh out the difference of views would be timely and might help to an agreement in terminology at least and possibly in interpretation.

The following general statement of the present terminology and meaning of the subconscious will be of assistance to the general reader in following the discussion in this and the next number. Professor Münsterberg has very clearly stated the three dominant theories of the subconscious backed respectively by laymen, physicians and psychologists, and it is well that these three be kept well in the foreground of the discussion. Perhaps these three types are sufficient for a discussion in a symposium, and yet, there are three other meanings of the subconscious, one or other of which is held by individual writers and of which the. reader should be reminded at least. These six may be summarized thus: First, it is used to describe that portion of our field of consciousness which, at any given moment, is outside the focus of our attention; a region therefore, as it is conceived, of diminished attention. Subconsciousness here, therefore, means the marginal states or fringe of consciousness of any given moment, and the prefix sub designates the diminished or partial awareness that we have for these states out in the corner of our mind's eye.

The second meaning (Professor Münsterberg's second type) involves a theory which is an interpretation of the facts. It is with—this meaning particularly that the term is used in abnormal psychology. Subconscious ideas are dissociated or split-off ideas; split off from the main personal consciousness, from the focus of attention—if that term be preferred—in such fashion that the subject is entirely unaware of them, though they are not inert but active. These split-off ideas may be limited to isolated sensations, like the lost tactile sensations of anesthesia; or may be aggregated into groups or systems. In other words, they form a consciousness coexisting with the primary consciousness, and thereby a doubling of consciousness results. The split-off consciousness may display extraordinary activity. The primary personal consciousness as a general rule is of course the main and larger consciousness; but under exceptional conditions, as in some types of automatic writing, the personal consciousness may be reduced to rudimentary proportions, while the secondary consciousness may rob the former of the greater part of its faculties and become the dominant consciousness.

The third meaning (Professor Münsterberg's first type) is an elaboration and extension of the second, and thus becomes a theory which not only gives an elaborate interpretation of the facts of observation, but becomes a broad generalization in that it propounds a principle of both normal and abnormal life. Under it the dissociated states: become synthesized among themselves into a large self-conscious personality, to which the I term "self" is given. Subconscious states ' thus become personified and are spoken of as the "subconscious self," "subliminal self," "hidden self," "secondary self," etc.; and this subconscious self is conceived of as making up a part of every human mind, whether normal or abnormal, and is supposed to play a very large part in our mental life. Thus every mind is double; not in the moderate sense of two trains of thought going on at the same time, or being engaged with two distinct and separate series of actions at the same time; or even in the sense of there being certain limited discreet perceptions of which the personal consciousness is-not aware; but in the sense of having two selves which are often given special domains of their own and spoken of as upper and lower; the waking and submerged selves, etc. This theory, therefore, not only extends the principle of dissociated ideas into normal life and makes these constant elements of the human mind, but enlarges the subconscious synthesis into something that is self-conscious and which can speak of itself as an "I."

The fourth meaning of subconscious is that which by definition would have it include; first, the dissociated ideas embraced under the second definition above stated;...

Product Details

BN ID: 2940014866392
Publisher: OGB
Publication date: 08/12/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 149 KB

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