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Methodological pitfalls of the Unconscious Thought paradigm


  • Laurent Waroquier
  • David Marchiori
  • Olivier Klein
  • Axel Cleeremans


According to Unconscious Thought Theory (UTT: Dijksterhuis \& Nordgren, 2006), complex decisions are best made after a period of distraction assumed to elicit ``unconscious thought''. Over three studies, respectively offering a conceptual, an identical and a methodologically improved replication of Dijksterhuis et al.\ (2006), we reassessed UTT's predictions and dissected the decision task used to demonstrate these predictions. We failed to find any evidence for the benefits of unconscious decision-making. By contrast, we found some evidence that conscious deliberation can lead to better decisions. Further, we identified methodological weaknesses in the UTT decision task: (a) attributes weighting was neglected although attributes were seen as different in importance; (b) the material was not properly counterbalanced; and (c) there was some confusion in the experimental instructions. We propose methodological improvements that address these concerns.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:4:y:2009:i:7:p:601-610

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Davy Lerouge, 2009. "Evaluating the Benefits of Distraction on Product Evaluations: The Mind-Set Effect," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 367-379.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Mark Nieuwenstein & Hedderik van Rijn, 2012. "The unconscious thought advantage: Further replication failures from a search for confirmatory evidence," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(6), pages 779-798, November.


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