Our unconscious mind can be a great motivator when it comes to pursuing our goals, according to a new University of Alberta study.
Alberta School of Business researcher Sarah Moore and colleagues from Duke and Cornell universities say that unconscious feelings about objects in the environment influence the pursuit of long-term goals.
Their study explores how the unconscious mind responds to objects in relation to an individual's goals-and how the unconscious continues to influence feelings about these objects once the goals are reached-whether or not the outcome has been successful.
"In the past few years, we recognized that some of [Sigmund] Freud's ideas on the unconscious mind were, in fact, correct and that a lot of our decision-making and a lot of our feelings are based on things that we're not really aware of," said Moore, who is an assistant professor in the Alberta School of Business.
"In our study, we looked at how our unconscious feelings about objects in the environment influence how we pursue goals," she said.
Moore's research focused on longer-term goals, such as getting in shape or undertaking educational pursuits.
She said that, unlike with short-term finite goals, the unconscious will continue to positively value objects related to the long-term goals even after a level of success has been achieved.
She said this phenomenon points to the indeterminate nature of the goal.
What was surprising for the researchers was how participants in their study reacted to objects after a failure.
While the researchers expected the participants who failed to react negatively or express dislike for objects related to their test goal, Moore and her colleagues found that failure resulted in a neutral view of the objects.
"You don't hate the objects related to the goal because that goal is very important to you in the long run," said Moore.
"Your unconscious is telling you 'now is not the time to pursue the goal. You just failed let's leave it alone for a while. We're not going to pursue these objects in the environment; we're going to switch to some other goal," she added.