Unconscious Goal Pursuit: Nonconscious Goal Regulation and Motivation

Henk Aarts and Ruud Custers

in The Oxford Handbook of Human Motivation

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195399820
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Unconscious Goal Pursuit: Nonconscious Goal Regulation and Motivation


Experimental research in psychology has discovered that human goal pursuit originates and unfolds in the unconscious. Our behavior is directed and motivated by goals outside of conscious awareness in the current situation or environment. In this chapter we review past and current research that examines these goal-priming effects. Our review is organized around two themes. The first theme deals with research that analyzes how people control their goal pursuit in the absence of conscious awareness, and it examines goal pursuit as automated behaviors resulting from habits as well as flexible behaviors that occur when habitual responding is not adequate to attain goals. The second theme concerns the quest to understand the unconscious source of human goal pursuit, and it explores recent work that considers the fundamental role of positive affect in reward processing and implicit motivation.

Keywords: priming; goal pursuit; unconscious processes; motivation; regulation

Article.  12237 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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