Implicit vs. Explicit (or unconscious vs. conscious) Strategy Adaptivity
In the 1980s, I discovered that subjects could quickly adapt the strategy that they were using to answer questions based on a shift in the base rate of the likelihood that a particular strategy would be useful, specifically a retrieval strategy or an inference/reasoning strategy. What I found more surprising is that although subjects were strongly affected by the shifting base rates, they were unaware of these base rates or the strategies that they were employing (they assumed that they always tried to search for the answer first). Since that time, we have found this same result, that subjects can quickly shift strategies to changing base rates in many other domains. We have also found that subjects are oblivious to the strategies they are using or these base rates.

From this pattern of results, I have concluded that much of our strategy selection (or what is sometimes called our metacognition) occurs implicitly or without awareness.



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