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A critical review and meta-analysis of the unconscious thought effect in medical decision making

Vadillo, MA; Kostopoulou, O; Shanks, DR; (2015) A critical review and meta-analysis of the unconscious thought effect in medical decision making. Frontiers in Psychology , 6 , Article 636. 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00636. Green open access

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Abstract

Based on research on the increasingly popular unconscious thought effect (UTE), it has been suggested that physicians might make better diagnostic decisions after a period of distraction than after an equivalent amount of time of conscious deliberation. However, published attempts to demonstrate the UTE in medical decision making have yielded inconsistent results. In the present study, we report the results of a meta-analysis of all the available evidence on the UTE in medical decisions made by expert and novice clinicians. The meta-analysis failed to find a significant contribution of unconscious thought (UT) to the accuracy of medical decisions. This result cannot be easily attributed to any of the potential moderators of the UTE that have been discussed in the literature. Furthermore, a Bayes factor analysis shows that most experimental conditions provide positive support for the null hypothesis, suggesting that these null results do not reflect a simple lack of statistical power. We suggest ways in which new studies could usefully provide further evidence on the UTE. Unless future research shows otherwise, the recommendation of using UT to improve medical decisions lacks empirical support.

Type: Article
Title: A critical review and meta-analysis of the unconscious thought effect in medical decision making
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00636
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00636
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2015 Vadillo, Kostopoulou and Shanks. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: Bayes factors, deliberation without attention, medical decision making, meta-analysis, unconscious, thought effect
UCL classification: UCL
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/1492491
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