Despite anecdotes recounting the discovery of creative solutions through unconscious thought, research has yielded weak empirical support. To understand this gap, the authors examined the effect of unconscious thought on two outcomes of a Remote Association Test (RAT): implicit accessibility versus conscious reporting of answers. In Experiment 1, using very difficult RATs, a short period of unconscious thought (i.e., participants were distracted while holding the goal of solving RATs), increased the accessibility of RAT answers but did not increase the number of correct answers compared to an equal duration of conscious thought or mere distraction. In Experiment 2, using moderately difficult RATs, unconscious thought led to similar level of accessibility but fewer correct answers compared to conscious thought. These findings confirm and extend the unconscious thought theory by demonstrating that processes that increase the mental activation of correct solutions do not necessarily lead them into consciousness.
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