Hebrew University psychologists, Baruch Eitam, Ran Hassin and Yaacov Schul, in their new study, found out that nonconscious desires are more powerful than the conscious ones in triggering the achievement motivation in people.
Eitam and team argue that non-conscious goal pursuit can help people achieve their goals, even in a new environment, in which they have no prior experience.
In the first of two experiments, the research team had participants complete a word search task.
One half of the participants' puzzles included words associated with achievement, e.g. strive, succeed, first, and win, while the other half performed a motivationally neutral puzzle including words such as, carpet, diamond and hat.
Then participants performed a computerized simulation of running a sugar factory. Their goal in the simulation was to produce a specific amount of sugar. They were only told that they could change the number of employees in the factory.
Although participants were not told about the complex relationship that existed between the number of employees and past production levels (and could not verbalize it after the experiment had ended); they gradually grew better in controlling the factory.
As predicted, the non-consciously motivated participants (the group that had previously found words associated with achievement) learned to control the factory better than the control group.
In a second experiment the researchers replicated the findings by having participants perform a simple task of responding to a circle that repeatedly appeared in one of four locations.
They were not told that the circle (sometimes) appeared in a fixed sequence of locations. Non-consciously motivated participants had again (nonconsciously) learned the sequence better than control participants.
"Taken together, both studies suggest that the powerful, unintentional, mechanism of implicit learning is related to our non-conscious wanting and works towards attaining our non-conscious goals," the researchers said.
The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.