Unconscious perception is a term used to describe mental impressions that occur beneath the threshold of conscious awareness. Evidence of this type of perception may affect or include sensory, auditory and visual perception. Unconscious perception is the area of consciousness where certain habits may form and is one of many theories of perception.
Also referred to as subconscious thought, perception that is unconscious is often vulnerable to subliminal suggestions. For example, on a hot summer day an individual may see a fleeting photograph of a frozen dessert and, without even consciously paying attention to the photo, develop an increasing desire to go out and purchase that dessert. Even if the conscious mind may attempt to resist that dessert by way of reasoning that it contains too many calories or too much sugar, an unconscious type of perception has taken root and caused that desire to occur.
Other types of perception can also play a part in unconscious impressions. For instance, a certain auditory perception or sensory perception may cause unconscious reactions to stimuli. Researchers who study the psychology of perception have found that of patients rendered unconscious by anesthesia during surgical processes, some can recall events that occurred during surgery. Since the patient’s mind was placed in a controlled unconscious state during such procedures, it has been concluded that a person’s unconscious perception is responsible for such memories.
Research has been conducted to determine whether certain habits are formed or exist at levels of this type of perception. For instance, habits like immediately noticing differences between people based on gender or race are automatic for some individuals in that they do so without even consciously noticing their thought patterns. In some instances, an unconscious perception like this may even influence how people interact with one another. Only through repeated conscious effort can a habit like this be changed if a person desires to do so.
Though most published research suggests that unconscious perception is inferior to conscious perception, not all researchers believe this to be true. Some believe that unconscious thought patterns are in many ways equal in strength and accuracy to those that occur consciously. There are even some who believe that certain unconscious suggestions may even overpower conscious choice although more research is needed to determine whether or not this is actually true. As researchers continue to explore the effects of unconscious perception, questions and debate about how to go about accurately measuring it also persist.