On making the right choice: the deliberation-without-attention effect

Science. 2006 Feb 17;311(5763):1005-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1121629.


Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always advantageous to engage in thorough conscious deliberation before choosing. On the basis of recent insights into the characteristics of conscious and unconscious thought, we tested the hypothesis that simple choices (such as between different towels or different sets of oven mitts) indeed produce better results after conscious thought, but that choices in complex matters (such as between different houses or different cars) should be left to unconscious thought. Named the "deliberation-without-attention" hypothesis, it was confirmed in four studies on consumer choice, both in the laboratory as well as among actual shoppers, that purchases of complex products were viewed more favorably when decisions had been made in the absence of attentive deliberation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Attitude
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Humans
  • Thinking*
  • Unconscious, Psychology