Expertise Effects on Immediate, Deliberate and Unconscious Thought in Complex Decision Making


In this study we examined the claim that unconscious thought would lead to better choices in complex decision making than immediate and deliberate thought. We doubted whether this would also be true for experts in a domain. Participants were students and experienced real-estate agents with expertise in choosing between houses. In three problems, differing in difficulty and/or task requirements, participants decided upon the best house by rank-ordering and evaluation. No support was found for beneficial effects of unconscious thought, neither for experts, nor for students. In line with our hypothesis we found that experts could take advantage of deliberate thinking in complex decision making. They were also better than students in immediate choices. These results corroborate other studies that question the generalizability of the deliberation-without-attention hypothesis, and provide further evidence that it is helpful to deliberately think when making complex decisions. The advice is to rely on experts or to build expertise, instead of leaving thinking to the unconsciousness.

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