Can unconscious thought detect relational similarities?

Jiansheng Li, Xueyun Li, Xiaoqin Zhang, Kai Shi, Yuhan He
Published Online:
28 Nov 2018

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One of the core principles of unconscious thought theory is the bottom‐up‐versus‐top‐down principle. However, previous studies on bottom‐up‐versus‐top‐down processes focused mainly on surface similarities, and there is a lack of studies based on relational similarity. Therefore, the present study intended to examine whether unconscious thought is capable of detecting relational similarities. In two experiments, the participants were presented with three stories. One of the test stories shared surface similarity with the base story, while the other shared relational similarity with it. The results indicated that the unconscious thought group was more likely to select the story with relational similarity, while the conscious thought and immediate decision groups were more likely to select the story with surface similarity. These findings suggest that unconscious thought can detect relational similarities, thus supporting the bottom‐up‐versus‐top‐down principle.

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