Issus with the definition of Unconscious Thought in Unconscious Thought Theory
ISSUES WITH THE DEFINITION 1OF „UNCONSCIOUS THOUGHT‟IN UNCONSCIOUS THOUGHTTHEORY Sumitava Mukherjee1 & Narayanan Srinivasan2 1 IIT Gandhinagar, India 2CBCS, University of Allahabad, India Sumitava.email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org 20th Conference on Towards a Science of Consciousness
Overview of this talk2 The classical understanding of „unconscious thought‟ Recent backdrop and empirical findings of deliberation-without-attention Introduction to Unconscious Thought Theory (UTT) Examining the core assumptions of UTT Unlimited capacity/Weighting or Sub-sampling? Nature of “unconscious thought” Re-think the way unconscious thought is defined in UTT
Dual systems of thought3 Intuition vs Deliberation (e.g., Kahneman, 2011) Which is better? When? – old research says intuition better for easy/learned associations but newer research says it is better for complex real life problems
Unconscious cognition4 Psychological unconscious – mental structures/processes that influence a person‟s experience, thought and action OUTSIDE of conscious awareness (Kihlstrom, 1987). Conscious perception or action is based on unconscious/implicit/subliminal/automatized information (Hemholtz, Freud, Kihlstrom). Inacsessible to introspection and knowable only by inference Has historically implied a dis-connection with attention
Different views of the5 „unconscious‟ Waste-basket: un-attended percepts and un- rehersed memories that are subsequently lost Substantial pre-conscious: Processes involved in early stages like feature detection, pattern recognition [Both make virtually no contact with “higher” processes] Automatic: Highly complex behavior but outside awareness (Bargh & Chartland, 1999) Powerful unconscious: Unconscious alone and by
A bold claim…6 When faced with a complex decision, stop thinking (Dijksterhuis et al., 2006). Explicit consideration of options and attributes overwhelms our limited capacity conscious. The unconscious has unlimited capacity and can therefore weigh information appropriately and decide optimally. Unconscious is capable of performing tasks/calculations outside of consciousness In case of complex multi-attribute decisions, distracting away from the problem (unconscious thought) results in better decisions.
The deliberation-without-attention effect: an evidence of a superior7 unconscious? Dijksterhuis et al. (2006). Science, 311, 1005- FAILED 1007.
The Unconscious Thought Theory8 (UTT) Unconscious cognition is just not suitable for simple feats (Greenwald, 1992), but the unconscious is powerful, without capacity limitations, which uses a bottom-up processing style, appropriately weights the relative importance for attributes in decision, engages in associative processing and divergent thinking.
“Unconscious Thought” Principle in9 UTT The Unconscious Thought Principle asserts the existence and nature of two kinds of thought: conscious and unconscious. Conscious thought is defined as “object- relevant or task-relevant cognitive or affective thought processes that occur while the object or task is the focus of one‟s unconscious attention,” while unconscious thought simply occurs when the object or task is outside of attention (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006).
Our concerns with UTT10 Core assumptions of UTT Unlimitedcapacity & Optimal weighting principle Our proposal – a sub-sampling heuristic The usage of attention to operationalize Unconscious Thought – re-look at the definition.
Unlimited capacity or Sub-11 sampling (a) Prob. Sampling + WADD (b) Prob. Sampling + TALLY (c) Random Sampling + WADD (d) Random Sampling + TALLY Srinivasan & Mukherjee, 2010
Unlimited capacity or13 Subsampling Sub-sampling (Mukherjee & Srinivasan, 2013) can lead to decently correct choices - there is no need to posit an infinite capacity for unconscious thought. There is accordingly no convincing data which suggest that unconscious thought results in optimal weighting. Infact UTT studies haven‟t really looked into how much information is processed and how. Both during conscious and unconscious thought, they may focus on a small set of important attributes to arrive at a decent decision.
Operationalizing Unconscious14 Thought Unconscious thought is “object relevant or task relevant cognitive or affective thought processes that occur while attention is directed elsewhere” (Dijsksterhuis & Nordgen, 2006) Treats attention as a resource which is absent[present] How attention operates? Attention cannot be treated as a unitary mechanism – Scope of attention?
Attentional mechanisms during15 Unconscious Thought • Information for 4 cell phones each having 12 attributes were 1 presented • Distracter task [Global or Local at 2 low or high working memory load] • Choice & memory 3 Srinivasan, N., Mukherjee, S., Mishra, M. V., & Kesarwani, S. (2013)
Global vs Local letters16 examples Global S Local S
Differences in attentional mechanisms during Unconscious17 Thought Main effect of scope: F(1, 76)= 11.8, p < .01 Effect of load (p=.117) and interaction between load and scope (p=.794) was not significant Srinivasan et al., 2013
Differences in attentional mechanisms during Unconscious18 Thought Main effect of scope: F(1, 76)=6.47, p = .01. Effect of load (p=.8) was not significant but and interaction was marginally significant (p=.058) Srinivasan et al., 2013
Re-thinking the „Unconscious19 Thought‟ Attentional mechanisms during unconscious thought have profound effects (Srinivasan & Mukherjee, in press) Scope of attention affects many higher order cognitive processes including complex decision making Unconscious thought cannot be defined using attention when attentional mechanisms themselves can affect „unconscious thought‟
Conclusions20 A need for a proper treatment of attention In general theorizing about effects of conscious vs unconscious processes is critically dependent on a proper treatment of attention. Conflating both attention and consciousness would add more confusion to the issue of unconscious thought in particular and the link between attention and consciousness in general
Conclusions21 The UTT paradigm is not an adequate method to measure beneficial unconscious thought (if at all there is; Shanks & Newell, in press) The putative „unconscious thought‟ is constrained by differences in attentional processes employed during unconscious thought (or is it distracted conscious thought?) and to differences in selection of information (Srinivasan & Mukherjee, in press). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Newell, B. R., & Shanks, D.R. (in press). Unconscious Influences on Decision Making: A Critical Review. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Srinivasan, N. & Mukherjee, S. (in press). Even unconscious thought is influenced by attentional mechanisms. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. (Commentary).
References22 Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American psychologist, 54, 462. Dijksterhuis, A. & Nordgren, L.F. (2006). A theory of unconscious thought. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 1, 95–109. Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M.W., Nordgren, L.F., van Baaren, R.B. (2006). On making the right choice: the deliberation-without-attention effect. Science 311, 1005–1007. Greenwald, A. G. (1992). New Look 3: Unconscious cognition reclaimed. American Psychologist, 47(6), 766. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kihlstrom, J. F. (1987). The cognitive unconscious. Science, 237, 1445-1452. Mukherjee, S. & Srinivasan, N. (2013). Attention in preferential choice. Progress in Brain Research, 202, 117-134. Srinivasan, N., Mukherjee, S., Mishra, M. V., & Kesarwani, S. (2013). Evaluating the role of attention in the context of unconscious thought theory: Differential impact of attentional scope and load on preference and memory. Frontiers in Psychology 4:37. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00037