R. Hanák

Slovak Academy of Sciences (SLOVAKIA)
It is usually assumed that the more we deliberate about our decisions the better they are. However, unconscious thought theory (UTT, Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006) claims that unconscious thought is able to solve problems without our awareness and it is better equipped for handling decisions with many attributes. In other words, it is better to think through simple decisions, while it is better to solve complex problems by letting unconscious thought work on it. This controversial claim encouraged intensive research with ambiguous findings (only half of the studies confirmed the claims of unconscious thought advantages).

The aim of this paper is to review the research our team has done in this topic with the use of new technologies, such as E-prime. The goal is primarily methodological – to introduce problems we faced and to present several tasks from various domains we constructed to test the claims of UTT. Chosen domains include buying an apartment, hiring a personnel, and investment into a start-up enterprise.

In all three domains we use the same design as the author of the UTT (Dijksterhuis, 2004); we constructed three tasks – each consisting of four alternatives (apartments, potential employees, enterprises) described by 12 attributes. To select the most salient attributes we conducted three pilot studies to identify the most important dimensions when people make decisions in these three domains. In each domain, one alternative is then designed to look most attractive (8 out of 12 attributes are positive), one least attractive (8 out of 12 attributes are negative) and two alternatives serve as neutral “fillers” (6 out of 12 attributes are positive).

Rationale for using various domains is to test assumption that unconscious thought (conceptualized as an automatic intuitive process) may have distinctive advantages based on the domain in which the experience were acquired. In this paper we present results of the pilot study used for designing the task for E-prime.

Total of 158 managers and administrative workers participated in the study. They had to ascribe percentual weights to 25 dimensions identified by Canadian Invention Assistance Program (Åstebro & Elhedhli, 2006) in two ways – firstly in time stress and then without time stress. Then we compared two conditions and based on the results we selected twelve dimensions that were the highest weight by majority of participants and we created 4 alternatives according to UTT testing paradigm.