News and events

Jul 2, 2010

Ruud Custers and Henk Aarts in Science

The review article "The unconscious will: How the pursuit of goals operates outside of conscious awareness" by Ruud Custers and Henk Aarts was published in the July 2 issue of Science.

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Category: General
Posted by: goallab

Because we are often conscious of the things we decide and the things we do, it is generally assumed that consciousness is necessary for initiating and executing goal-directed behavior.  In their review article in Science on July 2, Custers and Aarts conclude that this is not always the case. For instance, seeing someone drink in a movie on TV, even without consciously noticing it, can (when thirsty) lead you to walk to the fridge and poor yourself a glass of coke. The brain is able to respond without the aid of consciousness because the primed concept of drinking activates the behavior representations that apply in the situation, which are converted into effortful, overt behavior when the concept of drinking evokes a reward signal. Thus, automatic preparation of behavior and unconscious processing of reward signals enables people to conduct goal-directed behavior, without a conscious decision or intention.

The review article underlines the recognition for the research program of Aarts and Custers over the last 10 years, which was supported by a Veni, Vidi and Vici grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).


For the media coverage of the article, see our media section.