Mental Architecture and the Unconscious

Philip N. Johnson-Laird

in How We Reason

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199551330
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191701580 | DOI:
Mental Architecture and the Unconscious

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This chapter attempts to elucidate the distinction between processes and representations. Mental processes are carried out on mental representations, thus a clarification about the distinction between them is required. An example on how humans reason about spatial relations is provided. A hypothesis is suggested that working memory is available only for those processes that yield conscious representations. The theory of mental architecture implies the existence of a split between conscious and unconscious behavior. There are behaviors, such as smiling or the switching of attention, which can be conscious or unconscious. Some views of mental life, notably emotions, are outside of conscious control. As a result, conflicts can occur between voluntary and involuntary behaviors.

Keywords: theory of mental architecture; unconscious behavior; conscious behavior; mental representations

Chapter.  3612 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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