Commentary: When the unconscious knows best


When the unconscious knows best

Published: June, 2006

A group of researchers in Amsterdam, publishing in the February 17 Science, has provided some evidence that if you want to make a satisfying decision, it's sometimes better to do so without conscious thought. In a series of experiments, the Dutch researchers studied whether consciously thinking through a choice of actions is more productive than letting the process go on outside of awareness. It turns out to depend on the complexity of the decision.

In one study, the researchers divided subjects into three groups and gave them a choice of four hypothetical apartments to rent. One group was told to choose right away, and a second group was given some time to think. Neither chose as satisfactorily as a third group that was distracted during a deliberation period so that they couldn't consider the choice consciously.

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