The interplay between presentation material and decision mode for complex choice preferences


Recent research suggests that, when faced with a choice between several alternatives described with a large number of attributes, people make better choices if they do not consciously ponder over the alternatives but rather perform a distraction task assumed to elicit unconscious thought. Subsequent research attempting to replicate this finding, however, provided mitigated support for its existence. The research reported here contributes to this ongoing debate on two grounds. First, it highlights a methodological confound between qualitative and quantitative presentation material and proposes a novel procedure that can accommodate both. Second, it shows that, whereas conscious deliberation leads to better decisions when alternatives are characterised by quantitative information, the use of a qualitative format for presenting information cancels the advantage of conscious deliberation.

In Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 682-691.