Article | Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

The Best of Both Worlds: Integrating Conscious and Unconscious Thought Best Solves Complex Decisions

Abstract

Two studies address the debate over whether conscious or unconscious mental processes best handle complex decisions. According to Unconscious Thought Theory (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006), both modes of thinking have particular advantages: conscious thought can follow strict rules, whereas unconscious thought is better suited for integrating numerous decision attributes. Because most complex decisions require both adherence to precise rules and the aggregation of information, we hypothesized that complex decisions can best be made by engaging in periods of both conscious and unconscious thought. In both studies we found that the sequential integration of conscious and unconscious thought solved complex choices better than conscious or unconscious thought alone. In Study 2 we examined whether the sequential order of the integration condition matters. In line with our prediction, we found that integration worked best when unconscious thought followed conscious thought.

Keywords: Forecasting and Prediction; Values and Beliefs; Information; Knowledge Management; Management Skills; Management Style; Measurement and Metrics; Success; Research; Cognition and Thinking; Personal Characteristics; Perception;

Citation:

Nordgren, Loran F., Maarten W. Bos, and Ap Dijksterhuis. "The Best of Both Worlds: Integrating Conscious and Unconscious Thought Best Solves Complex Decisions." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47, no. 2 (March 2011): 509–511.