New research has found there isn’t much reason to “sleep” on a decision before making a choice. The findings illustrate that people still make choices predicted by their subjective preferences for certain attributes, such as safety or price regardless of whether decisions are made quickly or left to unconscious thought. This negates 2006 research that was used to encourage decision-makers to either make a “snap” decision or leave the complex decision to the powers of unconscious thought.

“Our research suggests that unconscious thought is more susceptible to irrelevant factors, such as how recently information has been seen rather than how important it is. If conscious thinkers are given adequate time to encode material, or are allowed to consult material while they deliberate, their choices are at least as good as those made unconsciously,” says lead author Ben Newell, PhD, of the University of New South Wales.

The recent study included four experiments in which participants were faced with complex decisions. Participants were instructed to make a decision immediately, after a period of conscious thought, or after a period of unconscious thought processes.

“Claims that we can make superior ‘snap’ decisions by trusting intuition or through the ‘power’ of unconscious thought have received a great deal of attention in the media. At best, these sorts of headlines are misleading, and at worst, they’re outright dangerous,” says Newell. “We found very little evidence of the superiority of unconscious thought for complex decisions.”

The Journal of Experimental Psychology will publish the study.