Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 12

Conscious v/s Unconscious Decision making

Priya Anne Jacob, MA sem 1

Introduction
We humans make innumerable decisions every day, from simple decisions like what clothes to wear to complex decisions like what carrier to pursue. We often believe that best decisions are made with careful deliberation, taking ones time to think over the options ,comparing the pros and cons, i.e. through conscious deliberation. But is it really true? Can good decisions only be taken consciously? Does conscious deliberation really lead to best decisions? Or is there some other force that helps us in complex decision making like the Unconscious? Some philosophers and psychologists believed that it is the unconscious that helps us in making better choices involving complex decisions. This debate has being going on from a long time. The major historical perspectives of 20th-century psychology can be distinguished from one another based on their positions on this question; Do people consciously and actively choose and control these various experiences and behaviors, or are those experiences and behaviors instead determined directly by other factors, such as external stimuli or internal, unconscious forces? Freud for example, considered human behavior to be determined mainly by biological impulses and the unconscious interplay of the psychic forces those impulses put into motion. The individual was described as usually unaware of these intrapsychic struggles and of their causal effect on his or her behavior, although it was possible to become aware of them and then change one's patterns of behavior. Contemporary psychology for the most part has moved away from eitheror positions concerning the locus of control of psychological phenomena, to an acknowledgment that they are determined jointly by processes set into motion directly by one's environment and by processes instigated by acts of conscious choice and will. Such dual-process models in which the

phenomenon in question is said to be influenced simultaneously by conscious (control) and non- conscious (automatic) processes, are now the norm in the study of attention and encoding. Thus, the mainstream of psychology accepts both the fact of conscious or willed causation of mental and behavioral processes and the fact of automatic or environmentally triggered processes. The debate has shifted from the existence (or not) of these different causal forces to the circumstances under which one versus the other controls the mind. As Posner and Snyder (1975, p. 55) noted a quarter century ago, this question of how much conscious control we have over our judgments, decisions, and behavior is one of the most basic and important questions of human existence. In recent times more light has been shed on the matter via lab experiments and field study. In two of the experiments reported by Dijksterhuis (2004) and Dijksterhuis et al. (2006), they operationalized a complex decision problem as involving four alternatives and 12 binary attributes. Experiment 2 in Dijksterhuis (2004) found that the option characterized by more positive attributes was chosen signicantly more often in an unconscious-thought condition (59%) than when participants responded immediately (36%) and was chosen more often, though not signicantly so, in the unconscious-thought condition than in a conscious-thought condition (47%). In the rst study in Dijksterhuis et al. (2006), the option characterized by more positive attributes was chosen signicantly more often under unconscious thought (60%) than under conscious thought (22%). According to Dijksterhuis and his colleagues, unconscious thought (a) is good at forming global or holistic impressions of alternatives (Dijksterhuis, 2004), (b)weights the relative importance of different attributes of objects in a relatively objective and natural way (Dijksterhuis & van Olden, 2006, p. 628), and (c) is less capacity constrained than conscious thought. Consequently, one thing the unconscious is good at is making complex decisions (Dijksterhuis, 2004,p. 597). Dijksterhuis and his colleagues noted that conscious thought may be better for making simple decisions or strictly following a single rule, such as applying a lexicographic rule or judging whether something meets a predetermined standard (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006). However, they advised, when matters become more complicated and weighting is called for use unconscious thought (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006, p. 105). They also formulated the Unconscious thought theory which has 6 core principles :

Unconscious Thought Principle The first principle is the unconscious thought principle. This principle states that conscious thought consists of directed attention whereas unconscious thought is more effective when attention is directed elsewhere. The conscious system is the part of our duplex mind that performs complex operations while the unconscious system is automatic and comprises of task relevant operations that we are unaware of. Capacity Principle The second principle is the capacity principle. This principle describes how conscious thought is constrained by a low capacity of consciousness and is therefore limited. Unconscious thought has a much higher capacity and therefore does not have this constraint. Conscious thought does not take into consideration all the information it should and can only store seven items in short term memory at once as discussed by Miller (1956). For conscious thought, quality indirectly varies as a function of complexity. Bottom-Up versus Top-Down Principle The third principle is the Bottom-Up-versus-Top-Down principle. Unconsciousness works bottom-up or unschematically and consciousness works top-down or schematically (Bellezza et al. 2008). Thoughts that are inconsistent are either blocked or reinterpreted to make them more consistent. It is through unconscious thinking that we generate more skewed interpretations. Conscious thinking leads people to consider conscious thought more frequently thus making unconscious thought harder to recall and less available. (Bellezza et al. 2008). Weighting Principle The fourth principle is the Weighting Principle which explains how unconscious thinking naturally weighs relative elements of a situation. In fact, conscious thought disrupts this natural process and interferes with the weighing principle. Conscious thought disturbs the decision process by letting people put too much or too little weight on various attributes. Conscious thought has shortcomings that can prevent sound decision making and can lead to suboptimal weighting of the importance of different choice alternatives (Bos, et al. 2008). Unconscious thought weights the relative importance of different attributes of objects in a relatively objective and natural way (Dijksterhuis and Olden, 2005).

Rule Principle The fifth principle is the Rule principle. The rule principle describes how conscious thought follows stringent rules and is therefore more precise as opposed to unconscious thought which results in more roughly estimated outcomes. Convergence Principle The sixth and final principle is the Convergence versus Divergence principle. Conscious thought is convergent since it can integrate large amounts of information. Unconscious thought is described as divergent. Unlike unconscious thought, conscious thought does not have the ability to store and incorporate vast amounts of different information. After a period of conscious engagement, it is necessary to undergo a break or phase of distraction in order to successfully engage in incubation which allows other critical cues to surface and unimportant cues to fade from memory. (Dijksterhuis and Olden, 2005). It is also believed, based on studies from this principle, that the unconscious is primarily responsible for creativity. These characteristics of conscious and unconscious thought led Dijksterhuis et al to postulate the Deliberation-without-attention hypothesis, on the relation between mode of thought or deliberation (conscious versus unconscious) and the complexity and quality of choice. Complexity is defined as the amount of information a choice involves. A choice between objects for which one or two attributes are important (such as oven mitts or toothpaste) is simple, whereas a choice between objects for which many attributes are important (cars or houses) is complex. Conscious thought is hypothesized, due to its precision, to lead to good choices in simple matters. However, because of its low capacity, conscious thought leads to progressively worse choices with more complex issues. Unconscious thought (i.e., deliberation without attention) is expected, because of its relative lack of precision, to lead to choices of lower quality. However, the quality of choice does not deteriorate with increased complexity, allowing unconscious thought to lead to better choices than conscious thought under complex circumstances, this latter idea being the kernel of the deliberation-without-attention hypothesis. Problem: To study the deliberation without attention effect on the process of decision making.

Hypothesis: Unconscious thought process is more effective in making complex


choices than Conscious thought process. While conscious thought process is more effective in making simple choices than complex choice.

Method: The participants in the study are young adults (18 to 25). Material: List of four Tablets with their attributes on separate cards of the same size. (each attribute has to be on a separate card) 2 blank sheet of paper Pen Stopwatch Screen Variables:

IV: Decision making which id either conscious or unconscious. DV: participants decision about the best mobile and LED Tv

Control variables:
1.

Exposure time per attribute card was 8sec

2. Distraction time for complex decision making group was 4min


3.

Thinking time for simple decision making group was 4min.

4. Noise and distractions were kept at minimum possible level

Design: A Factorial design with 2 levels of independent variable (conscious v/s unconscious) manipulated at 2 levels(simple v/s complex). 2*2 factorial design

Procedure: The Participant was brought into the lab, he/she was made comfortable and rapport was established. Both the participants in the 2 conditions ie. Unconscious thought process and conscious thought process read the information about four hypothetical mobiles Depending on the condition, mobile was characterized by 4 attributes (simple) and Led TV by 12 attributes (complex). The attributes were either positive or negative. One product was characterized by 75% positive attributes, two by 50% positive attributes, and one by 25% positive attributes . Each participant in both group ie. conscious and unconscious group has to go through both simple decision making task and complex decision making task. Instruction for Conscious group: Simple decision making task This is a simple experiment on decision making. I will be showing you information about 4 hypothetical mobiles. The attributes of each mobile will be on separate cards. Each card will be shown to you for 8sec. After this you will be given some time to think carefully about the mobile (note:time given is 4 min), after which you have to make a decision about the best mobile. Ie you have to write down which mobile you thought was best from the 4 options given to you. ( note: simple group has 4 attributes for each mobile). Complex decision making task Now I will be showing you information about 4 LED TVs. The attributes of each tv will be on separate card. Each card will be shown to you for 8sec. After this you will be given some time to think carefully about the (note:time given is 4 min) , after which you have to make a decision about the best TV. Ie you have to write down which TV you thought was best from the 4 options given to you. ( note: complex group has 12 attributes for each TV) Unconscious group Simple decision making task This is a simple experiment on decision making. I will be showing you information about 4 hypothetical mobiles. The attributes of each mobile will be on separate cards. Each card will be shown to you for 8sec. After this you

will be given anagrams to solve for some time (note:time given is 4 min) after which you have to make a decision about the best TV. Ie you have to write down which TV you thought was best from the 4 options given to you. ( note: simple group has 4 attributes for each tv) Complex decision making task Now I will be showing you information about 4 hypothetical Led TVs. The attributes of each TV will be on separate card. Each card will be shown to you for 8sec. After this you will be given anagrams to solve for some time (note:time given is 4 min) , after which you have to make a decision about the best TV. Ie you have to write down which TV you thought was best from the 4 options given to you. ( note: complex group has 12 attributes for each TV)

References

Bargh,J.A., Chartrand,T.L., The unbearable automaticity of being. American psychology association,1999, 54(7):p.462-479 Bos, M.W., Dijksterhuis, A., & van Baaren, R. B., On the goaldependency of unconscious thought. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2008. 44: p. 1114-1120 Dijksterhuis, A. Unconscious Lab: Ap Dijksterhuis. Dijksterhuis, A., Think Different: The Merits of Unconscious Thought in Preference Development and Decision Making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004. 87(5): p. 586598

Dijksterhuis, A., Nordgren, L. F., A Theory of Unconscious Thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2006. 1(2) Payne, J.W., Samper, A., Bettman, J.R., Luce, M.F., Boundary Conditions on Unconscious Thought in Complex Decision Making. Psychological Science, 2008. 19(11) Wilson, T.D., Schooler, J. W., Thinking Too Much: Introspection Can Reduce the Quality of Preferences and Decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1991. 60(2)
http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/Unconscious_Thought_Theory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscious_Thought_Theory

List of mobiles with their attributes:

1. Nokia

i. ii. iii. iv.

Android os Has wifi Poor camera Low battery life

2. Idea i. ii. iii. iv. 3. L.G. i. ii. iii. iv. Touchscreen Has wifi Has geo-tagging Low battery life Android os Bad loudspeaker Poor camera Bad earphones

4. Samsung i. ii. iii. iv. Touchscreen Has wifi Low battery life Bad loudspeaker

List of LED TVs with their attributes:

TV 1
Full HD Support Has Usb port Is Economical Saves energy Stylish and sleek lively surround sound Poor resolution

TV 2

TV 3

TV 4
Economical Saves energy No warrenty No hd support Poor speaker No video playback No Usb port No HD support

Lively surround sound Full HD Support Intelligent Backlight Control Ambient Light Sensor Full HD support Oversized remote control Not economical No usb port Intelligent Backlight Control Inbuilt Cd player Stylish and sleek TV is slow Very expensive No usb port