What was noted by E. J. Langer (1978) remains true today; that much of contemporary psychological research is based on the assumption that people are consciously and systematically processing incoming information in order to construe and interpret their world and to plan and engage in courses of action. As did E. J. Langer, the authors question this assumption. First, they review evidence that the ability to exercise such conscious, intentional control is actually quite limited, so that most of moment-to-moment psychological life must occur through nonconscious means if it is to occur at all. The authors then describe the different possible mechanisms that produce automatic, environmental control over these various phenomena and review evidence establishing both the existence of these mechanisms as well as their consequences for judgments, emotions, and behavior. Three major forms of automatic self-regulation are identified: an automatic effect of perception on action, automatic goal pursuit, and a continual automatic evaluation of one's experience. From the accumulating evidence, the authors conclude that these various nonconscious mental systems perform the lion's share of the self-regulatory burden, beneficently keeping the individual grounded in his or her current environment.
The chameleon effect refers to nonconscious mimicry of the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one's interaction partners, such that one's behavior passively and unintentionally changes to match that of others in one's current social environment. The authors suggest that the mechanism involved is the perception-behavior link, the recently documented finding (e.g., J. A. Bargh, M. Chen, & L. Burrows, 1996) that the mere perception of another's behavior automatically increases the likelihood of engaging in that behavior oneself. Experiment 1 showed that the motor behavior of participants unintentionally matched that of strangers with whom they worked on a task. Experiment 2 had confederates mimic the posture and movements of participants and showed that mimicry facilitates the smoothness of interactions and increases liking between interaction partners. Experiment 3 showed that dispositionally empathic individuals exhibit the chameleon effect to a greater extent than do other people.
According to the auto-motive model (J. A. Bargh, 1990), intentions and goals are represented mentally and, as representations, should be capable of nonconscious activation by the environmental context (i.e., "priming"). To test this hypothesis, the authors replicated 2 well-known experiments that had demonstrated differential effects of varying the information-processing goal (impression formation or memorization) on processing the identical behavioral information. However, instead of giving participants the goals via explicit instructions, as had been done in the original studies, the authors primed the impression formation or memorization goal. In both cases, the original pattern of results was reproduced. The findings thus support the hypothesis that the effect of activated goals is the same whether the activation is nonconscious or through an act of will.
Nonconscious behavioral mimicry occurs when a person unwittingly imitates the behaviors of another person. This mimicry has been attributed to a direct link between perceiving a behavior and performing that same behavior. The current experiments explored whether having a goal to affiliate augments the tendency to mimic the behaviors of interaction partners. Experiment 1 demonstrated that having an affiliation goal increases nonconscious mimicry, and Experiment 2 further supported this proposition by demonstrating that people who have unsuccessfully attempted to affiliate in an interaction subsequently exhibit more mimicry than those who have not experienced such a failure. Results suggest that behavioral mimicry may be part of a person's repertoire of behaviors, used nonconsciously, when there is a desire to create rapport.
Consumer behavior can be influenced by mental processes that occur outside of conscious awareness. It is argued that in each domain of automaticity, researchers should specify the aspects of which consumers are presumably unaware. Three types of awareness are identified. These include awareness of (a) the environmental features that trigger an automatic process, (b) the automatic process itself, and (c) the outcome of that automatic process. Individuals may be unaware of one or more of these stages, thereby making the process nonconscious. With additional clarity regarding which aspects are nonconscious in which domains and the specific role that awareness plays, we can begin building a more comprehensive model of nonconscious processes in consumer behavior. Copyright © 2005, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.