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The Science Of The Faux Pas

Oops, didn't mean to say that! Scientists explain why our unconscious thoughts slip out.

boy with hand over mouth

Photo: 42dreams (flickr)

How in-control are we over our unconscious minds?

Do you ever wonder why you say things you didn’t mean to say?

The Struggle

There are many possible reasons why we say things out loud we mean to keep to ourselves. But one compelling explanation is that the very act of straining to avoid saying something embarrassing or awkward raises the risk of doing just that.

Scientists explain it as a struggle between the conscious and unconscious mind.

Say you’re at a party and someone near you is smoking. It’s obnoxious, but you don’t want to make a big deal, so you consciously try to think about something else. But meanwhile, your unconscious mind is on the lookout for any smoking related thoughts. If you’ve had a bit to drink, or are tired, or stressed, an unconscious smoking thought can burble to the conscious surface. Before you know it you blurt out something about how second hand smoke is a deadly killer.

Are We In Control?

So, are we at the mercy of our unconscious minds? Sometimes. In certain situations, at least, we’re not in total control of what we think, and how we act.

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