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Public perceptions of manipulations on behavior outside of awareness

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Bechlivanidis, C 


The present study examined the role of individual differences (e.g., age, gender, education level, political affiliation, religiosity) and stance (general vs. personal) on contexts associated with manipulations without awareness. In all three studies, people were presented with several real-world contexts. They first rated the extent to which there was manipulation of behavior without awareness, and then provided additional ratings of agentic (e.g., free choice, Conscious Intentions, Conscious Control, responsibility) and affective (Certainty, satisfaction, concern) experiences. Study 1 (N = 222) replicated prior findings: When taking a general stance, the relationship between ratings of manipulation without awareness and ratings of agentic experiences was determined by context. These findings extended to Study 2 (N = 377) and Study 3 (N = 283) where people were asked to take a personal stance, that is, to consider situations of possible manipulation that they themselves have experienced, and provided ratings of their experiences. Across all three studies, people showed remarkable agreement, indicating that individual differences played no substantive role in the patterns of ratings, but stance and context did. People taking a general stance rated Research and Therapy as the most common contexts where they suspected manipulation without awareness, but for those taking a personal stance, Media and Marketing were the most common. The findings are discussed in reference to key theories (e.g., Dynamic monitoring and control theory, Reactance theory, Self-determination theory, Social learning theory) that explain why people place high such a premium on agentic experiences.



unconscious, folk beliefs, manipulation without awareness, free choice, responsibility

Journal Title

Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice

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American Psychological Association