Splitting consciousness: Unconscious, conscious, and metaconscious processes in social cognition
This paper explores the interplay between unconscious, conscious, and metaconscious processes in social cognition. We distinguish among mental states that are (i) genuinely unaware, (ii) aware, but lack meta-awareness, and (iii) meta-aware?internally articulated as states of the perceiver. We review key studies from our own and related research programmes to highlight this theoretical framework, and to illustrate access, translational, and temporary dissociations between levels of awareness. The discussed phenomena include unconscious affect, mind-wandering, verbal overshadowing, theory-based biases in reporting of experiences, and many others. We also show how our framework can offer new perspectives on some classic social psychology findings and inspire discovery of new findings. However, we also highlight challenges inherent in establishing whether a phenomenon is genuinely unconscious or experientially conscious but lacking in meta-awareness.