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Unconscious influences on decision making: A critical review

Newell, BR; Shanks, DR; (2014) Unconscious influences on decision making: A critical review. Behavioral And Brain Sciences , 37 (1) 1 - 19. 10.1017/S0140525X12003214. Green open access

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Abstract

To what extent do we know our own minds when making decisions? Variants of this question have preoccupied researchers in a wide range of domains, from mainstream experimental psychology (cognition, perception, social behavior) to cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics. A pervasive view places a heavy explanatory burden on an intelligent cognitive unconscious, with many theories assigning causally effective roles to unconscious influences. This article presents a novel framework for evaluating these claims and reviews evidence from three major bodies of research in which unconscious factors have been studied: multiple-cue judgment, deliberation without attention, and decisions under uncertainty. Studies of priming (subliminal and primes-to-behavior) and the role of awareness in movement and perception (e.g., timing of willed actions, blindsight) are also given brief consideration. The review highlights that inadequate procedures for assessing awareness, failures to consider artifactual explanations of "landmark" results, and a tendency to uncritically accept conclusions that fit with our intuitions have all contributed to unconscious influences being ascribed inflated and erroneous explanatory power in theories of decision making. The review concludes by recommending that future research should focus on tasks in which participants' attention is diverted away from the experimenter's hypothesis, rather than the highly reflective tasks that are currently often employed.

Type: Article
Title: Unconscious influences on decision making: A critical review
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X12003214
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X12003214
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 he article has been accepted for publication and will appear in a revised form, subsequent to peer review an d/or editorial input by Cambridge University Press, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences published by Cambridge University Press.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1419217
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