Positive consequences of conflict on decision making: when a conflict mindset facilitates choice

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2015 Feb;144(1):1-6. doi: 10.1037/a0038551. Epub 2014 Dec 15.


Much research has shown that conflict is aversive and leads to increased choice deferral. In contrast, we have proposed that conflict can be beneficial. Specifically, exposure to nonconscious goal conflict can activate a mindset (a set of cognitive procedures) that facilitates the systematic processing of information without triggering the associated costs, such as negative affect and stress. In a conflict mindset, people should be better able to make tradeoffs and resolve choice conflict. We tested this proposition in 4 experiments, and demonstrated that priming conflicting goals before a decision increases choice in domains unrelated to the primed conflict. We further demonstrated that increased choice occurs because people in a conflict mindset process choice information more systematically, and we rule out several alternative explanations for the results.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Negotiating
  • Problem Solving
  • Repetition Priming
  • Set, Psychology*