Are we determining our own relationships to nature?
How much are our attitudes and actions affected by cues?
Do we make up stories about our motivations, even lying to ourselves?
Are our conscious selves really in charge?
"…Subliminal perception can influence…complicated psychological processes. For example, after being subliminally presented with words related to hostility, people are most likely to interpret the ambiguous behavior of another person as hostile (Bargh & Pietromonaco, 1982). Similar effects are found using judgments of kindness and shyness (Bargh, Lombardi, & Tota, 1986). This is not solely restricted to judgments of others, however, as University of Michigan graduate students rated their research ideas more poorly after being subliminally presented with a scowling face of their advisor than after being exposed to a smiling post-doc (Baldwin, Carrel, & Lopez, 1990)."
"Subliminal presentations also seem capable of influencing behavior. For example, people with a competitive disposition were more likely to compete in a game after subliminal exposures to competitive words (Neuberg, 1988). In an even more impressive study, participants behaved more aggressively towards another student after their concept of hostility had been subliminally activated (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996; Chen & Bargh, 1997). These findings raise many questions regarding the limits of subliminal influence and, more generally, of the extent to which our thoughts, judgments, and behaviors are triggered automatically by the environment."
Benjamin Libet's famous experiments on the sequence of actions that take place when we make simple decisions have shown that the signals initiating the action actually take place before the conscious awareness of the decision. True, there remains a brief period after the sequence has begun during which we become consciously aware of what is going on and can veto the action. So, we might argue in these instances that we have more "free won't" than "free will." The question remains whether consciousness actually amounts to freedom though, since we must ask: then what causes consciousness to choose?
In his book The Illusion of Conscious Will, Daniel Wegner of Harvard University argues that our sense of free will is a confabulatory post hoc illusion created in order to facilitate both the personal and social tracking of actions and responsibility. He uses examples like dowsing, Ouija boards, séances, and hypnotism to show instances where our sense of authoring our own behavior is wrong, showing that in fact we can become confused about whether or not we have actually initiated an action.
If deceit, as evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers wrote, "is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray by the subtle signs of self-knowledge the deception being practiced." Thus, the idea that the brain evolved to produce "ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution." We've evolved, in other words, to delude ourselves so as better to fool others.
View the four minute film loop of your chosen bandwidth/ratio. Please do not rewind/pause to read the jumbled words that flash occasionally. Afterwards you can read the explanation below.
ABOUT THE FILM
Prime Green is an exploration of unconscious messaging (called "priming" in psychology) and the human relationship to the natural world. The piece is peppered with subliminal primes – words shown on a single video frame, one-thirtieth of a second. These primes are simplified positive messages about environmental sustainability and the experience of nature. Although studies have shown that informing people about being primed lessens its effectiveness, we think as an art piece it's more appropriate to reveal this. Plus we figured it might be creepy not to tell you! But if you allow the worded messages to remain subconscious, it can still be an effective priming experience.
The concept was developed by Jeff Harmon and Naomi Bock. Jeff researched and designed the primes and produced the music, remixing a track by his band Cilia, including contributions from Edmond Cho, Rene Muslin, and former member Sarah Gangale. Naomi created the video using footage she shot in San Francisco and British Columbia (except for the shot of the canoe, found at the public-domain Prelinger Archives, and the time-lapse sprouts and flower from Plants in Motion, all treated with effects by Naomi). Jeff designed the website and put together the supporting material to the left.
To see more of Naomi's video art work, please find her under Artists at:
To hear more of Cilia’s music, please visit:
In addition to the resources cited to the left, you can read more about priming and the power of the unconscious at:
"What every skeptic should know about subliminal persuasion," Skeptical Inquirer, Sept-Oct, 1999 by Nicholas Epley, Kenneth Savitsy, Robert A. Kachelski
The work of Professor John A. Bargh, Yale University
Email us with your comments!
|INCREASE THE RATIO OF CONSCIOUS TO UNCONSCIOUS. BECOME MORE HONEST ABOUT THE EFFECTS OF BEHAVIOR. MAKE CHOICES IN SYNCHRONY WITH NATURE. CHOOSE LASTING PLEASURE. SURVIVE.|