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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why You Don’t See the Forest for the Trees When You Are Anxious: Anxiety Impairs Intuitive Decision Making

Carina Remmers and Thea Zander
Clinical Psychological Science
First Published September 27, 2017


Intuitive decisions arise effortlessly from an unconscious, associative coherence detection process. Hereby, they guide people adaptively through everyday life decision making. When people are anxious, however, they often make poor decisions or no decision at all. Is intuition impaired in a state of anxiety? The aim of the current experiment was to examine this question in a between-subjects design. A total of 111 healthy participants were randomly assigned to an anxious, positive, or neutral multimodal mood induction after which they performed the established semantic coherence task. This task operationalizes intuition as the sudden, inexplicable detection of environmental coherence, based on automatic, unconscious processes of spreading activation. The current findings show that anxious participants showed impaired intuitive performance compared to participants of the positive and neutral mood groups. Trait anxiety did not moderate this effect. Accordingly, holistic, associative processes seem to be impaired by anxiety. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

The article is here.