Personal example: Hofstadter, in "Fluid Concepts...", throws the anagram "ucilgars" at me. (Note I'm a German, I would probably solve a comparable riddle fast if in my mother tongue, and I would solve it systematically and conscious.) I try a bit, give up and read on. About ten pages later, without me thinking about it for minutes: "surgical"! It pops into my conscious without warning. Later, same book: "tenjuk". No luck, even after a day.

The natural explanation, of course: Somewhere in my brain resides a dictionary of English and a permutation generator. (8! is not thaaat large a number.) It can easily find "surgical" but not "junket" as I never heard of the term before. (Even though this was the first term I googled, as it sounded like the most "natural" try.)

So, let's generalize to the title question: Has there been scientific work proving or disproving that the unconscious is capable of executing meaningful tasks, like the above example of browsing a directory? (I'm well aware that the methodological problems would be daunting.) This would also be relevant for the theme "creativity".



Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.