What is it about?

From 8 studies that were recently meta-analyzed, what we find that even when are suspicious that we are being manipulated without our awareness most of us still maintain a belief that we have some, rather than, absolutely no ability to freely choose.

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Why is it important?

It is of course seemingly paradoxical to ask where one might expect to be manipulated without one’s awareness and expect an accurate answer. If the methods used to do this are happening without us knowing, how can we know what is happening to us. So, how are we able to answer this question, and how is it we are so consistent in our beliefs? One explanation is that we are basing our answers on common societal understandings (e.g. via entertainment, news) about the use of psychological tactics to manipulate. For instance, we have built up views on how methods are devised to encourage us to interact with social media in a certain way, vote in a particular direction, or buy a certain product. In addition, the psychological tactics might simply be a lot less sophisticated than is generally claimed, so they operate more over the conscious radar than under it. Of course, there is still the issue as to how well any method claiming to work covertly actually can change our behavior without us knowing, and this requires a different set of experiments to test this, which the work discussed here didn’t do.


Taken together, these findings are the first of their kind to reveal what people think about real life examples of being manipulated without their awareness, and crucially, they are examples that people have volunteered themselves- not fictitious examples constructed by experimenters.

Magda Osman
University of Cambridge

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Impact of personalizing experiences of manipulation outside of awareness on autonomy., Psychology of Consciousness Theory Research and Practice, November 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/cns0000343.
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