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Think Different: The Merits of Unconscious Thought in Preference Development and Decision Making

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The role of unconscious and conscious thought in decision making was investigated in 5 experiments. Because of the low processing capacity of consciousness, conscious thought was hypothesized to be maladaptive when making complex decisions. Conversely, unconscious thought was expected to be highly effective. In Experiments 1-3, participants were presented with a complex decision problem in which they had to choose between various alternatives, each with multiple attributes. Some participants had to make a decision immediately after being presented with the options. In the conscious thought condition, participants could think about the decision for a few minutes. In the unconscious thought condition, participants were distracted for a few minutes and then indicated their decision. Throughout the experiments, unconscious thinkers made the best decisions. Additional evidence obtained in Experiments 4 and 5 suggests that unconscious thought leads to clearer, more polarized, and more integrated representations in memory.
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... The reality of unconscious cognitive and sensoryemotional processing is unquestionable [15][16][17][18][19][20]. For instance, the consciously verbally reported strategy to perform a task may not be the one the child used, according to the observable eye movements of the child [21]. ...
... A significant absolute power increase in beta at frontal (Fp1, F3, and F4) and central (C4) areas has been related to increased cortical activation [50]. The low beta frequency range (13)(14)(15)(16)(17) is associated with subsequent memory success, independent of stimulus modality [51]. Beta spindles are seen in conditions such as ADHD and bipolar depression, and epilepsy, suggesting an irritable cortex. ...
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