Distinguishing deliberate from systematic thinking.

Adi Amit, Sari Mentser, Sharon Arieli, Niva Porzycki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deliberate thinking and systematic thinking are often conflated when contrasted with intuitive thinking. We argue that, in fact, nonintuitive thinking is multidimensional, and that deliberate and systematic thinking are distinct nonintuitive processes. We establish their distinct meanings in 6 studies using 3 research paradigms. Our first paradigm (Studies 1 and 2) takes an individual differences approach. Adopting a meta-analytic design with the addition of new data, we find that deliberate thinking and systematic thinking are differentially associated with personality traits (openness to experience with deliberate thinking; conscientiousness with systematic thinking) and with personal values (self-direction vs. conformity with deliberate thinking; security vs. stimulation with systematic thinking). Our second paradigm (Studies 3 and 4) employs a decision-making task (choosing between different problem types and levels of difficulty) to test for deliberate and systematic thinking in isolation from each other. We show that systematic thinking (in oneself and others) predicts a selection of rule-based over context-based problems, while deliberate thinking predicts a selection of difficult over simple problems. Our third paradigm (Studies 5 and 6) takes a cultural perspective. We show that although deliberate thinking is universally perceived as signifying competence, the contribution of systematic thinking to perceptions of competence is culturally dependent, differing for participants under a collectivistic versus individualistic mindset. Together our findings highlight the need to distinguish between deliberate and systematic thinking and underscore the need for studies of intuitive versus nonintuitive thinking to take a multidimensional perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-788
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association American Psychological Association


  • deliberation
  • individual differences
  • individualism/collectivism
  • intuition
  • systematic


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