Subliminal unconscious conflict alpha power inhibits supraliminal conscious symptom experience

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Our approach is based on a tri-partite method of integrating psychodynamic hypotheses, cognitive subliminal processes, and psychophysiological alpha power measures. We present ten social phobic subjects with three individually selected groups of words representing unconscious conflict, conscious symptom experience, and Osgood Semantic negative valence words used as a control word group. The unconscious conflict and conscious symptom words, presented subliminally and supraliminally, act as primes preceding the conscious symptom and control words presented as supraliminal targets. With alpha power as a marker of inhibitory brain activity, we show that unconscious conflict primes, only when presented subliminally, have a unique inhibitory effect on conscious symptom targets. This effect is absent when the unconscious conflict primes are presented supraliminally, or when the target is the control words. Unconscious conflict prime effects were found to correlate with a measure of repressiveness in a similar previous study (Shevrin et al., 1992, 1996). Conscious symptom primes have no inhibitory effect when presented subliminally. Inhibitory effects with conscious symptom primes are present, but only when the primes are supraliminal, and they did not correlate with repressiveness in a previous study (Shevrin et al., 1992, 1996). We conclude that while the inhibition following supraliminal conscious symptom primes is due to conscious threat bias, the inhibition following subliminal unconscious conflict primes provides a neurological blueprint for dynamic repression: it is only activated subliminally by an individual's unconscious conflict and has an inhibitory effect specific only to the conscious symptom. These novel findings constitute neuroscientific evidence for the psychoanalytic concepts of unconscious conflict and repression, while extending neuroscience theory and methods into the realm of personal, psychological meaning.
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Archival date: 2016-09-02
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