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Ever since Freud, the unconscious mind has been a critical part of our understanding of the human mind and behaviour. Despite its power to captivate popular imagination, scientific psychology's treatment of unconsciousness has a history of vicissitudes. This subject has three main components: historical background, contemporary theory and research, and applications and implications in contemporary culture and society. First, the subject traces the historical origin and subsequent development of the idea of the unconscious mind in psychological theories and practice. In so doing, Freud's notion of unconsciousness, as well as lesser known, but critically important theorists' contributions are examined and their contemporary implications are discussed. Second, the modern methods used in the contemporary examination of unconscious processes are introduced, and the current understanding of psychological unconsciousness is discussed from neuroscientific, perceptual, cognitive, developmental, social, and clinical perspectives. Third, we survey the uses of the scientific understanding of unconscious processes in a variety of applied contexts and explore implications of the psychological knowledge about the unconscious mind in contemporary culture and society. This includes a critical examination of the evidence for the role of unconscious processes in abnormal human behaviour and discussions about implications of the unconscious mind for identity and responsibility.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject students will demonstrate the capacity to:
- Describe key theories and findings that underpin historic and current knowledge of the unconscious mind;
- Explain how these theories and research have developed our understanding of the unconscious;
- Contrast approaches to understanding and studying the unconscious from different theoretical perspectives.
On completion of the subject students will have developed skills to:
- Critically review theories of the unconscious throughout the history of psychology;
- Evaluate the methodologies used to investigate the unconscious mind;
- Interpret empirical research findings on the unconscious mind;
- Communicate psychological research findings effectively in various written formats.
Application of knowledge and skills
On completion of this subject students will be able to apply their knowledge and skills to:
- Develop and present a reasoned argument concerning the place of the unconscious mind in contemporary psychological theory and more broadly within contemporary culture and society.
Students will be given appropriate opportunity and educational support to develop skills to:
- think critically and apply analytical skills to new issues
- appraise current knowledge and its internal structure
- evaluate methods used to acquire current knowledge
- appropriately interpret empirical data in the light of current knowledge and methodological considerations
- communicate ideas concisely
Last updated: 3 October 2023