Why did I do that? Explaining actions activated outside of awareness

Ana P. Gantman, Marieke A. Adriaanse, Peter M. Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We review the latest research investigating how people explain their own actions when they have been activated nonconsciously. We will discuss evidence that when nonconsciously activated behavior is unexpected (e.g., norm- violating, against self -standards), negative affect arises and triggers confabulations aimed to explain the behavior. Nonconsciously activated behaviors may provide a window into everyday confabulation of (erroneous) explanations for behavior, which may also affect self-knowledge. Implications for self-concept formation and intentionality are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1563-1572
Number of pages10
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Confabulation
  • Explanatory vacuum
  • Nonconscious goal pursuit
  • Priming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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