Lay psychology of the hidden mental life: Attribution patterns of unconscious processes

Ofri Maor, David Leiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In spite of extensive research on theory of mind, lay theories about the unconscious have scarcely been investigated. Three questionnaire studies totaling 689 participants, examined to what extent they thought that a range of psychological processes could be unconscious. It was found that people are less willing to countenance unconscious processes in themselves than in others, regardless of the time period considered - present, past or future. This is especially true when specific experience-like situations are envisioned, as opposed to considering the question in abstract or generic terms. In addition, the notion of unconscious psychological processes is resisted for certain domains in particular: intending, sensing, believing, and thinking. We interpret this pattern by positing the existence of two conceptions about the unconscious that are differentially applied according to circumstances: one originating in prevalent social representations about the unconscious, the other based on self-model of the person as an intentional actor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-401
Number of pages14
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Folkpsychology
  • Intentionality
  • Lay theories
  • Social representations
  • Theory of mind
  • Unconscious

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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