Until just a few centuries ago, the human mind seemed relatively simple. We knew that some things – such as messages purportedly sent by the gods – escaped the control of consciousness. Then the situation changed. Freud – though his explanations of the origins and the meanings of our dreams, as well as of the errors and lapses we experience in our daily lives – ushered in the unconscious. Today we mistakenly believe we are familiar with the unconscious mind. As the authors explain in this book, discoveries in scientific psychology have identified another, more pervasive and hidden, dimension of unconsciousness, thanks to which we perceive, pay attention, remember, and think. This “cognitive” unconscious is an outcome of the brain’s natural evolution. Moreover, the increasingly large amounts of information we deal with and what happens on our computer screens seem to have created a kind of “artificial” unconscious, a source of dangerous traps. Acknowledging the existence of many types of unconscious minds allows us to be more attentive to mechanisms that might deceive us, thus leading us to believe that we are more knowledgeable than we actually are.
Paolo Legrenzi is professor emeritus of Psychology at the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.
Carlo Umiltà is professor emeritus of Neuropsychology at the University of Padua.