Paul (Pawel) Lewicki
Professor of Psychology

Nonconscious Information Processing Laboratory
Psychology Department, University of Tulsa
600 South College Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74104, USA

phone: (918) 631-2248
fax: (918) 631-2094


Research on Nonconscious Information Processing

For a non-technical, brief summary, see: Quick Summary; see also links below, and the list of Relevant References.

Summary.   This research, conducted since the 80's (in collaboration with Thomas Hill and Maria Czyzewska) has provided empirical evidence for surprisingly sophisticated mechanisms of human information processing that operate outside of (and relatively independent of) the conscious awareness. These nonconsciously operating mechanisms have been shown to mediate not only the initial stages of the acquisition of information (i.e., they are responsible for various forms of learning) but they also affect the development of complex knowledge structures that control crucial processes of thinking and determine stable personality dispositions.

Complexity of nonconscious information processing, empirical data.   A considerable amount of data (collected in over 300 experiments) indicates that as compared to consciously controlled cognition, the nonconscious information-acquisition and information-generation processes are not only much faster but also structurally more sophisticated in the sense that they are capable of efficient processing of multidimensional and interactive relations between variables (e.g., features of incoming stimuli or frequencies of events). Those mechanisms of nonconscious acquisition of information provide a major channel for the development of procedural knowledge which is indispensable for such important aspects of cognitive functioning as encoding and interpretation of stimuli and triggering of emotional reactions.

Nonconscious spontaneous development of new knowledge structures.   That research has also demonstrated a number of mechanisms that are responsible for spontaneous nonconscious development of entirely new knowledge structures (such as self-perpetuating development of new encoding dispositions, nonconscious indirect inferences, or nonconscious abstraction and generation of "meta-knowledge"). In general, it is justified to assume that those mechanisms have a very "positive" influence on human performance and adjustment; they facilitate the acquisition of information, speed up processes of learning, and contribute to creative thinking. They may also participate in the development of individual differences in preferences and other personality characteristics. However, in some circumstances, the same mechanisms may produce dysfunctional symptoms (phobias, aversions, neurotic behavior, depression, borderline personality disorders, and psychotic behavior) as a by-product of "normal" encoding and "learning" about the outside world.

Current research.   Our current research deals with (1) the mechanisms of the nonconscious acquisition of information and, in particular, the "dynamics" of the spontaneous changes in the nonconscious knowledge structures, (2) low-level cognitive dispositions that determine relatively permanent styles of encoding (that are responsible for different general "patterns" of acquisition of information, see Internal/External Encoding Styles (and the test)), and (3) neural network and computer simulations of the processes identified in our previous laboratory research.

More information.   For a summary review of this research, see the enclosed paper Nonconscious Acquisition of Information; see also the enclosed list of relevant references.

For information on the more recent research on encoding styles, see Internal/External Encoding Styles (and the test).

Paul Lewicki
Psychology Department, University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104, USA
phone: (918) 631-2248, fax: (918) 631-2094, e-mail:

See also, Nonconscious Information Processing Laboratory, Psychology Department, University of Tulsa.