ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (6): 583-591.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00583

• Reports of Empirical Studies •     Next Articles

Positive effect of intuitive processing is modulated by cognitive resources under different levels of consciousness

Tingting YU1,Yue YIN1,Shu WANG1,Shujin ZHOU1,Xiaochen TANG2,Junlong LUO1()   

  1. 1 Department of Psychology, College of Education, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
    2 Shanghai Key Laboratory of Psychotic Disorders, Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200030, China
  • Received:2017-08-14 Published:2018-06-25 Online:2018-04-28
  • Contact: Junlong LUO
  • Supported by:


It was argued that thinking is characterized by the action of two distinctive cognitive systems, namely, intuitive (Type 1) processing and analytic (Type 2) processing. Intuitive processing is generally described as rapid, automatic, unconscious, and effortless, whereas analytic processing appears to be slow, controlled, conscious, and effortful. Decades of research have established that human judgment is often predisposed to rapid, intuitive processing. However, recent research has indicated that intuitive processing can support reasoning and even enhance it under certain conditions. Recent findings have suggested that intuitive processing should be as affected by cognitive resources and consciousness as analytic processing. However, intuitive and analytic processing will interfere with one another through a series of classical paradigms in which the results of two distinctive cognitive systems are in conflict. To avoid this interference, the present study applied the Chinese character chunking decomposition task, predicting that intuitive processing positively affect problem solving, but that it would disappear under conditions wherein cognitive resources were extremely scarce.

In the present research, we first drew up the Chinese character chunking decomposition task as materials, and participants were asked to judge whether the target character (e.g., “又”) was a component of the original character (e.g., “支”). Then, the formal experiment was organized into a 2 × 2 × 2 within-subject design. The first variable was the duration time of the target character, consisting of 2 levels: 24 ms and 200 ms; the second variable was the material category, consisting of 2 levels: intuitive material and analytic material; and the third variable was the inclusion relation, consisting of 2 levels: inclusion and exclusion. The inclusion condition meant that the target character was a component of the original character, whereas the exclusion condition denoted that the target character was not a component of the original character.

The results indicated that participants showed a lower rate of accuracy and a longer response time on analytic materials than on intuitive ones. However, no difference was observed between the two types of materials in terms of response time and accuracy when the duration time of the target character was 24 ms, and the inclusion relation was inclusion. Meanwhile, the accuracy scores of intuitive and analytic processing were approximately 0.5 at the guessing level. Signal detection analysis showed that the results under the unconsciousness condition were not influenced by the response bias.

The results proved that intuitive processing was rapid and analytic processing was slow. As predicted, intuitive processing positively affects the problem solving process. In addition, the experiment showed that intuitive processing was effortful and relied on cognitive resources, which was inconsistent with prototypical dual-process theories. Therefore, the positive effect would disappear when the cognitive resources were below demand.

Key words: level of consciousness, cognitive resource, intuitive processing, analytic processing.

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