The ACME (Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Emotion) Lab at Yale (see link above) focuses on nonconscious or automatic influences on psychological and behavioral processes. In one way or another, all of our studies address the issue of free will, and how much of it do we as individuals really have. We are interested in the extent to which all social psychological phenomena -- attitudes and evaluations, emotions, impressions, motivations, social behavior -- occur nonconsciously and automatically. Currently, our research is actively exploring how social goals such as to cooperate, achieve, become friends, and so on, are triggered and operate without the person's awareness. We also are looking at the potential sources of these nonconscious motivations in real life settings, for example, the significant others in our lives can be one major source. A related question is how these various sources of nonconscious influence interact with each other, and how much of our 'real life' experience is governed by them. We are also starting to look at emotional experience as a potential internal trigger of goals and future intentions. That all of these effects occur without the person's intention and awareness, yet have such strong effects on the person's decisions and behavior, has considerable implications for the nature and purpose of consciousness. By discovering those domains of social life in which conscious, deliberate processes are not necessary, we can shed more light on what consciousness is needed for -- that is, what its true purpose is.
Fitzsimons, G. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2003). Thinking of you: Nonconscious pursuit of interpersonal goals associated with relationship partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 148 - 164.
Duckworth, K. L., Bargh, J. A., Garcia, M., & Chaiken, S. (2002). The automatic evaluation of novel stimuli. Psychological Science, 13, 513 - 519.
Bargh, J. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., Lee-Chai, A. Y., Barndollar, K., & Troetschel, R. (2001). The automated will: Nonconscious activation and pursuit of behavioral goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1014 - 1027.
Bargh, J. A., & Ferguson, M. L. (2000). Beyond behaviorism: On the automaticity of higher mental processes. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 925 - 945.
Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist, 54, 462 - 479.