For the purposes of this question, I will define unconscious/subconscious as the parts of the human mind that are not normally available for introspection or control, but which are still involved in cognition. These parts of the mind might be involved in memory recall or assimilation of information. While I would define communication as receiving a recognizable response to input.

Have there been experiments attempting to establish communication with the researchers own unconscious mind? If so, what were their results? I'm not looking for "new age" kind of articles, but genuine scientific research findings.

The most direct way of communication that comes to mind would be talking to dream characters in a lucid dream and evaluating their responses upon awakening. Such characters are capable of semi-intelligent speech, and their responses at least casually appear to be related to the question at hand. A consistent pattern of responses over several dreams might be considered a form of communication.

Another experiment I can think of, which uses non-verbal communication would be using some daily activity to consistently triggers a recurring dream setting at night. For example, intense study causing dreams of classrooms or exams. In this case, the setting can be considered a response of unconscious system.

Another example I can think of is exposing a person to a stimuli which consistently causes some song to surface and "get stuck in one's head" - earworms during waking cognition. Alternatively, some saying or thought might arise unbidden in response to the stimuli. In this case, this can be considered another form of response.

Have there been scientific experiments along the lines described above? What would be the term I would use to search for "communicating with unconscious" in a scientific setting?

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    $\begingroup$ There is such a host of unverified assumptions and misunderstood concepts in this question, that I don't even know how to explain what is wrong without writing a textbook. Who communicates? What is consciousness? What is the self? Why is a consciously perceptible dream "unconscious"? Why does the unconscious communicate in images instead of directly influencing other parts of the mind and body through neuronal activity, never becoming consciously apparent at all and in fact being a continuous part of "conscious" thought. etc. Start with understanding the prerequsites of your question. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Dec 4, 2014 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ I list experimental setups that I would have personally explored in case there have been experiments like this and someone can reference them. I'm not saying that there is communication or that it takes a certain form. Berit has provided a number of interesting examples, in particular facial expressions. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Dec 5, 2014 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ A good analogy to my question would be: "Has anyone tried to establish contact with aliens?", a broad question - Wtf are aliens, when, where, who, how? But the question still has it has an answer: "Yes, there's a SETI program that attempts to do so". Within SETI program there's a number of experiments being carried out. I'm trying to understand if there's a similar answer to my rather broad question. Even if you find it ridiculous, chances are someone might actually be studying it. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Dec 5, 2014 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


In order to find such studies, it's a good idea to start off with mapping out what kind of situations would be relevant - that is, in what cases would it even be possible to communicate with someone's unconsciousnes? Then you need to define what kind of communication you are interested in. Here are some ways to find some kind of unconscious communication: Sleepwalkers, hypnosis(highly controversial), vegetative states and the like, subliminal messages, facial expressions, etc. As such, the short answer to your question is "yes". The long answer is that your question is too wide.

Here's an article on using unconscious communication as a way of identifying narcissism:

In this paper I suggest that analytical material implicitly carries in it a message proceeding from the unconscious and which is transmitted through representations. The message is expressed only when the object is recognized as such by the subject. In the narcissistic situation the unconscious message is not emitted. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/3667086

An article on communicating with patients suffering from trauma:

The interface among trauma, dissociation, and regression is discussed in the context of unconscious communication as a transferential enactment of unsymbolized experience.The view is offered that for certain patients in particular, past experience is not so much unconscious as “frozen in time” and that a key element of the psychoanalytic relationship is bridging dissociated aspects of self through the creation of a dyadic experiential field that is both “inside” and “outside.” http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10481889109538911?journalCode=hpsd20#.VIAkl8mZGkU

Research on facial expressions:

Studies reveal that when people are exposed to emotional facial expressions, they spontaneously react with distinct facial electromyographic (EMG) reactions in emotion-relevant facial muscles. These reactions reflect, in part, a tendency to mimic the facial stimuli. We investigated whether corresponding facial reactions can be elicited when people are unconsciously exposed to happy and angry facial expressions. Through use of the backward-masking technique, the subjects were prevented from consciously perceiving 30-ms exposures of happy, neutral, and angry target faces, which immediately were followed and masked by neutral faces. Despite the fact that exposure to happy and angry faces was unconscious, the subjects reacted with distinct facial muscle reactions that corresponded to the happy and angry stimulus faces. Our results show that both positive and negative emotional reactions can be unconsciously evoked, and particularly that important aspects of emotional face-to-face communication can occur on an unconscious level. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/11/1/86.short


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