In Defense of Consciousness: The Role of Conscious and Unconscious Inputs in Consumer Choice

In Defense of Consciousness: The Role of Conscious and Unconscious Inputs in Consumer Choice

2005Working Paper No. 1883

Although the argument that unconscious inputs are often key determinants of consumer decision making is compelling, it may be overstated, particularly with respect to consumer choice. A comparison of the role of conscious inputs (e.g., the attributes of options in the choice set) and unconscious inputs (e.g., a seemingly irrelevant observation or task) indicates that the former have a significant advantage. In particular, the impact of conscious inputs is supported by choice task norms and is less susceptible to being lost in the noise that is characteristic of most natural consumer environments (e.g., stores). Indeed, although consumers often have limited insight into influences and processes producing their choices, the assumption that consumers base their choices on conscious, willful evaluation of task-relevant inputs has been quite successful in explaining a wide range of phenomena. It is expected that future research will put greater emphasis on the interactions between conscious and unconscious influences.