Unconscious Thought Theory

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The premise of Unconscious Thought Theory is very similar to the idea of sleeping on a decision or taking a break from trying to solve a difficult problem and was recognised long ago by Wallas  in 1926. In research by Dijksterhuis and Nordgren (2006), participants were asked to choose between a number of apartments, each of which was described by different binary attributes (either positive or negative). One group of participants were invited to make an immediate choice between the apartments. A second group were given time to consider each choice carefully. The third was shown all of the apartments but then asked to complete the N-Back distraction task (Yntema, 1963) before choosing their preferred apartment. Among the choices available, one apartment was deemed to be the best choice: 75% of the attributes were positive compared to only 50% for the other apartments. While it might be logical to assume that those who were given time to make their choice were more likely to identify the best option, it transpired that the distracted participants were most likely to identify this option. The theory proposed by Dijksterhuis and Nordgren (2006) to explain this phenomenon is that by distracting the participants, their subconscious minds continue to work on the problem.

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