Răz­van Jurchiș
April 2020

What do you work on?

I study the acqui­si­tion and use of non­con­scious knowl­edge with emo­tion­al rel­e­vance, look­ing at how uncon­scious­ly learned struc­tures can influ­ence affec­tive eval­u­a­tions of novel stimuli.

What did you do using Gorilla?

Me and my col­leagues inves­ti­gat­ed whether uncon­scious knowl­edge may influ­ence the affec­tive valence of stim­uli that we have never encoun­tered before.

We pre­sent­ed par­tic­i­pants with mean­ing­less strings of let­ters (such as XMVTRM) fol­low­ing one of two pos­si­ble com­plex rules, called arti­fi­cial gram­mars. The strings from one of the gram­mars (the pos­i­tive gram­mar) were always paired with pos­i­tive images, while the strings from the other gram­mar (the neg­a­tive gram­mar) were always paired with neg­a­tive images. These arti­fi­cial gram­mars are too com­plex to be detect­ed con­scious­ly, but they are nonethe­less learned, pro­duc­ing most­ly uncon­scious knowl­edge (sim­i­lar to how we learn our native language’s gram­mar). Thus we expect­ed that par­tic­i­pants will learn the gram­mars and asso­ciate them with the respec­tive emo­tions, while remain­ing unaware of what they have learned. In a sub­se­quent phase we pre­sent­ed par­tic­i­pants with novel strings (i.e., that were not pre­sent­ed before, togeth­er with the images).

What did you find?

We found that par­tic­i­pants eval­u­at­ed the new strings from the pos­i­tive gram­mar more pos­i­tive­ly that the new strings from the neg­a­tive gram­mar, even when they had no aware­ness of the gram­mar-valence asso­ci­a­tion. This means that the uncon­scious knowl­edge of the gram­mar-valence asso­ci­a­tion influ­enced par­tic­i­pants’ affec­tive evaluations.

To sum up, we found that non­con­scious­ly learned struc­tures can influ­ence affec­tive eval­u­a­tions of novel stimuli.

Has this study been published?

The study has been pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Exper­i­men­tal Psy­chol­o­gy here.

You can view a free full text ver­sion here

Why did you choose Gorilla?

Because it’s user-friend­ly, easy to learn, and it’s rea­son­ably priced! I am able to col­lect large amounts of data in a short time, with reduced effort.

How do you think online research is going to change your field?

It will increase the sam­ple sizes used in stud­ies, which, hope­ful­ly, will con­tribute to an increase in the num­ber of replic­a­ble results.

“I am able to col­lect large amounts of data in a short time, with reduced effort.”

What advice would you give to some­one start­ing out in behav­iour­al science/research?

Find a con­text where you can pur­sue your intrin­sic inter­ests, with as much free­dom as pos­si­ble, and pre­serve your intel­lec­tu­al integrity.

What do you believe to be true that you can­not prove (yet)?

“I believe that non­con­scious knowl­edge plays a much greater role in our daily behav­iour that we think it does.”

The “prob­lem” is that it may be the case that this uncon­scious knowl­edge is often masked by con­scious knowl­edge. For instance, when we speak, we often use gram­mat­i­cal rules that we have learned uncon­scious­ly, but we are also capa­ble to retrieve or to make-up some con­scious rule. Thus, we might assume that the con­scious­ly retrieved or made-up rule is the one that has influ­enced our utter­ance, when it actu­al­ly has been based on an uncon­scious rule. But this “dou­ble cod­ing” (uncon­scious and con­scious) hypoth­e­sis is dif­fi­cult to test, because, accord­ing to cur­rent cri­te­ria for claim­ing an uncon­scious influ­ence, one has to exclude the pres­ence of any poten­tial­ly rel­e­vant con­scious knowledge.

If you could inter­view any researcher (alive or dead), who would it be and why?

I would actu­al­ly make a joint inter­view, with Gerd Gigeren­z­er and Daniel Kah­ne­man. I would like to have them engage in a dia­logue about the adap­tive func­tions of our intu­itive or non­con­scious mind. Kahneman’s per­spec­tive is seen as quite pes­simistic regard­ing how “smart” our intu­itive mind is, and Gigerenzer’s is seen as more opti­mistic, but my impres­sion is that there is actu­al­ly a lot of unex­plored com­mon ground in their views.

When you’re not work­ing, what do you enjoy doing?

Read­ing (most­ly about daily life and thought in antiq­ui­ty; sci­ence; the­ol­o­gy), sports (gym, table ten­nis, foot­ball – depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances), long walks through the for­est etc.

What’s your favourite inter­net sci­ence meme?

What sci­ence book have you read recent­ly that you’d rec­om­mend to others?

The Incer­to series, by Nas­sim Taleb, which com­pris­es five books deal­ing with the per­ils and oppor­tu­ni­ties of ran­dom­ness, risk, uncer­tain­ty, and with their ubiq­ui­tous implications.


Răz­van Jurchiș
Cognitive psychology (implicit learning, non-conscious knowledge, dual processing); Cognitive-behavior psychotherapy
Post-doctoral researcher
Babeș-Bolyai University, Romania
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