Testing the existence of unconscious thought through a memory perspective
Yosai, Erin Rachelle
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Research indicates that engaging in unconscious thought processes may aid individuals in making optimal decisions (e.g. Bos et al., 2008, Bos et al., 2011, Dijksterhuis, 2004; Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006) when conscious processing capabilities are limited. Experiments within this domain have dubbed the result of optimal complex decision making after delay in which conscious thought is distracted, relative to no conscious distraction the 'Unconscious Thought Effect' (Strick et al., 2011). However, skeptics of unconscious thought processes assert that the 'unconscious thought effect' may be an artifact of conscious or memorial-based processing (e.g. Lassiter et al., 2009; Reyna, 2003). The current experiment hypothesized that measuring individuals' working memory capacity (Unsworth et al., 2005), or attentional control, would clarify whether controlled memorial processes or unconscious thinking produces this effect. Namely, the control and effortful direction of attention influences conscious processes, but unconscious thought processes do not require attention (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006). Specifically, it was hypothesized that individual WMC would moderate decisions within conditions where conscious thought processes and attention were necessary to car evaluations. This thesis' specific interest is the 'unconscious thought condition.' Results indicating that individual WMC moderates car evaluation following a distraction period would support a memorial-based explanation for unconscious thought effects. Conversely, results indicated no effect of individual WMC on object evaluations following a distraction period would support the existence of independent, sophisticated unconscious thought processes (e.g. Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006). Although this experiment failed to clearly support either hypothesis regarding WMC, several possible explanations of the null and inconsistent results were identified. Attending to experimental issues and theoretical inconsistencies in future research may improve the understanding of the existence and boundarit.es of unconscious thought.