Research over the past two decades has demonstrated the importance of unconscious thoughts in shaping our behavior (Epstein&, 1994; Kihlstrom, 1987; Westen, 1998). More recently, a number of researchers have highlighted the importance of motivation in these unconscious processes (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999; Gollwitzer & Moskowitz, 1996; Higgins, 1996; Shah, Kruglanski, & Friedman, 2002). This symposium is timely in bringing together much of that research. For example Neuberg, Kenrick, Maner, and Schaller (this volume) describe how evolutionary motives, and Pyszczynski, Greenberg, and Solomon (this volume) describe how the fear of death, shape unconscious processing. Indeed, a number of the chapters in this book (by Aarts & Hassin; Liberman & Förster; Son Hing, Chung-Yan, Grunfeld, Robichaud, & Zanna, this volume; Strack & Deutsch; Wood & Quinn) have provided important insights about how our motives and our implicit thoughts interact. We are very pleased to be included in this effort.
From the fairly grandiose title of this chapter, it might appear that we are trying to delineate a grand theory of how motivation operates in the unconscious, but our aims are much more circumspect. Rather than a grand theory, we believe that the research we report in this chapter – on stereotype activation and application and on subliminal priming and persuasion – has demonstrated two important ways that motivation interacts with unconscious thoughts: (a) motivation can trigger the activation of thoughts concerning the satisfaction of the relevant motive, and (b) motivation can affect the link between thought (including nonconscious thought) and action to facilitate the satisfaction of the motive.