Previous research and daily life experience suggest that it is necessary to think deliberately and make tradeoffs between benefits and costs to make optimal options. But decision-makers are not always able to make good decisions with conscious thought in a variety of decision-making situations. Past studies have found that decision-makers make better choice with unconscious thought when facing complex decision-making. Dijksterhuis（2004）put forward the unconscious thought theory（UTT）, which inverted the traditional view that " a good result comes only after deliberation consideration”. Unconscious thought refers to object-relevant or task-relevant cognitive or affective thought processes that occur while conscious attention is directed elsewhere. The unconscious thought theory comprises several principles:（1）capacity principle;（2）bottom-up versus top-down principle;（3）weighting principle;（4）rules principle. Compared with conscious thought, unconscious thought has relative advantages in complex decision-making which needs to integrate vast information. Relevant research has explored the impact of unconscious thought on decision-making, impression formation, attitude formation and change, problem solving, and creativity. Does unconscious thought also work when consumers face complex decisions? This paper systematically combs the influence of unconscious thought on consumers’ complex decision-making and its mechanism from three stages: goal pursuit, selection process and post-choice evaluation. We find that the advantages of unconscious thought on consumers’ complex decision-making emerge in every stage of the decision-making process: unconscious thought makes it easier for consumers to identify the consumption target before making decisions by reducing the difficulty of target matching process and increasing the difference between options; it enables consumers to judge fast and correctly, which is closely related to the better information processing capacity of unconscious thought in decision-making. Due to the bottom-up principle, and global information processing, unconscious thought can reduce the inconsistent preferences after consumers’ decision-making and improve post-decision satisfaction. Although unconscious thought has advantages in complex decision-making, such effects still have boundary conditions. Individual differences among consumers and objective characteristics of the consumption situation will have an impact on the advantage effect of unconscious thought. Among them, consumers’ cognitive characteristics and their consumption purposes will significantly affect unconscious thought. In addition, the consumption type and the quality of consumer information are also important boundary conditions that affect unconscious thought. At last, the paper further puts forward the practical enlightenment to consumers and merchants based on the principle of unconscious thought, suggests that it is necessary to pay attention to the impact of unconscious thought on consumers’ complex decision-making under massive information environment of the internet, and further explores the dynamic coupling of unconscious and conscious thought in complex decision-making of consumers.
Make It Simple: A Review on Unconscious Thought and Consumer Complex Decision-Making
Foreign Economics & Management Vol. 41, Issue 03, pp. 98 - 110 (2019) DOI:10.16538/j.cnki.fem.2019.03.007
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Cite this article
He Yingwei, Li Aimei, Sun Hailong, et al. Make It Simple: A Review on Unconscious Thought and Consumer Complex Decision-Making[J]. Foreign Economics & Management, 2019, 41(3): 98-110.