Listening to your intuition in the face of distraction: Effects of taxing working memory on accuracy and bias of intuitive judgments of semantic coherence

Tobias Maldei*, Sander L. Koole, Nicola Baumann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

People can intuitively estimate the semantic coherence of word triads, even when they are unable to state the triads’ common denominator. The present research examines the role of working memory in such intuitive coherence judgments. Dual-process models of information processing suggest that intuition does not depend on working memory. Consistent with this, the authors predicted that taxing working memory capacity will not lower the accuracy of intuitive coherence judgments. Nevertheless, taxing working memory may impede metacognitive processing, which may lead people to become more conservative in judging triads as coherent. Two studies (combined N = 307) tested these predictions by asking participants to memorize letter-number combinations of varying lengths while providing intuitive coherence judgments. As expected, working memory load had no effect on the accuracy of intuitive coherence judgments (Studies 1 & 2). Effects on judgment bias were less consistent. In Study 1, participants became slightly more conservative in judging triads as coherent under moderate (compared to low) working memory load. In Study 2, which was preregistered, working memory load led to more conservative intuitive coherence judgments, but only when participants prioritized a highly demanding load task. Unexpectedly, when focusing on a moderate (compared to a low) working memory load, participants were more liberal in judging triads as coherent. Together, these findings indicate that taxing working memory may interfere with people's inclination to trust their intuition, even when it leaves the accuracy of people's intuition intact.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103975
JournalCognition
Volume191
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • Dual-process models
  • Intuition
  • Intuitive coherence judgments
  • Semantic coherence task
  • Working memory

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