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Choice Awareness and Manipulation Blindness: a cognitive semiotic exploration of choice-making and memory


  • Alexandra Mouratidou

Summary, in English

“Choice blindness” (CB) refers to a certain tendency to accept a choice that is presented to us as if it were our own, even when we have never made it. In the last decade, CB has been treated as a research tool in a series of experiments in different domains and modalities (e.g. Johansson et al. 2005, 2008; Hall et al. 2010, 2013; Sagana et. al 2014; Cochran et al. 2016) in order to study the relation between choice-making and phenomena such as preference, intention, and introspection (Johansson et al. 2005, 2008). Recently, the focus has been drawn to the role of memory in CB, but such research is still very limited and mostly concerns eyewitness recollections (e.g. Sagana et al. 2013; Cochran et al. 2016; Stille et al. 2017). Our occasional failure to detect choice manipulation has not been yet fully explained (Johansson et al. 2005; Sagana et al. 2014), but is argued to have implications for the ideas we have of ourselves as reliable decision makers, the use of introspection as research method, and the scope of our conscious awareness (Johansson et al. 2008; Cochran et al. 2016).

This thesis, through the prism of cognitive semiotics, explores the phenomenon of choice in its relation to memory, introducing a two-level hierarchy of choice-making. Through an experiment based on preference it investigates the way different factors, such as memory, consequence, and affectivity influence our choice- awareness. Forty-three participants were assigned two tasks combining 1) choices with a different degree of consequence (more/less) – based on different task instructions, and 2) a different degree of affectivity (high/low) – based on stimuli with different degree of abstractness. Participants were first asked to state their preference between two alternatives (choice) and then to confirm whether some of the (chosen and non-chosen) pictures that were presented to them belonged to their choices (memory). Lastly, they were asked to justify the reasons for their choices, although some of the trials had been manipulated (i.e. the preferred card was switched with the non- preferred one) (manipulation). Half of the manipulations were detected, while the majority of detections (75%) occurred for the choices participants remembered correctly. While consequence did not seem to influence detection, affectivity did. Unlike other choice experiments that investigate “blindness”, the results indicate that manipulation blindness is subject to varying factors, such as memory and affectivity, implying that we are aware of our choices and that we have, to different degrees, access to our intentional acts.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Cognitive Semiotics


  • Jordan Zlatev (Docent)