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Four empirical tests of Unconscious Thought Theory

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  • Huizenga, Hilde M.
  • Wetzels, Ruud
  • van Ravenzwaaij, Don
  • Wagenmakers, Eric-Jan

Abstract

According to Unconscious Thought Theory, people make better decisions after unconscious than after conscious thought (Dijksterhuis, Bos, Nordgren, & van Baaren, 2006a). Unconscious Thought Theory yields four specific predictions. First, an exact replication of Dijksterhuis et al. (2006a) study should indicate that unconscious decisions are superior to conscious decisions. Second, decisions should improve with duration of conscious thought. Third, unconscious decisions should be superior to conscious decisions, even if unconscious decisions are deliberated while having access to information. Fourth, unconscious decisions should be based on a weighting strategy. We report results of four studies, featuring 480 participants, that yield no evidence in favor of these predictions. Therefore our findings cast doubt on Unconscious Thought Theory and its advice to base decisions on unconscious thought. The results of our studies suggest that it is better to base decisions on conscious thought while having access to information.

Suggested Citation

  • Huizenga, Hilde M. & Wetzels, Ruud & van Ravenzwaaij, Don & Wagenmakers, Eric-Jan, 2012. "Four empirical tests of Unconscious Thought Theory," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 117(2), pages 332-340.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:117:y:2012:i:2:p:332-340
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.11.010
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Felix Acker, 2008. "New findings on unconscious versus conscious thought in decision making: additional empirical data and meta-analysis," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, pages 292-303, April.
    2. Dustin P. Calvillo & Alan Penaloza, 2009. "Are complex decisions better left to the unconscious? Further failed replications of the deliberation-without-attention effect," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(6), pages 509-517, October.
    3. Todd J. Thorsteinson & Scott Withrow, 2009. "Does unconscious thought outperform conscious thought on complex decisions? A further examination," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(3), pages 235-247, April.
    4. Slegers, David W. & Brake, Gregory L. & Doherty, Michael E., 2000. "Probabilistic Mental Models with Continuous Predictors," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 98-114, January.
    5. Laurent Waroquier & David Marchiori & Olivier Klein & Axel Cleeremans, 2009. "Methodological pitfalls of the Unconscious Thought paradigm," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(7), pages 601-610, December.
    6. Park, C Whan & Lessig, V Parker, 1981. " Familiarity and Its Impact on Consumer Decision Biases and Heuristics," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 223-230, September.
    7. Ford, J. Kevin & Schmitt, Neal & Schechtman, Susan L. & Hults, Brian M. & Doherty, Mary L., 1989. "Process tracing methods: Contributions, problems, and neglected research questions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 75-117, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carl-Christian Trönnberg & Sven Hemlin, 2012. "Banker's lending decision making: a psychological approach," Managerial Finance, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 38(11), pages 1032-1047, September.

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