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Life is filled with situations in which cognitive elaboration can powerfully sway outcomes, and yet our understanding of the contextual factors that impact elaboration are greatly limited to those entwined with the focal evaluation, judgment, or decision. In response, this research tests whether a more fundamental, incidental feature of the environment—structure—might influence the extent to which individuals engage in elaboration.

Three studies demonstrate that incidental reminders of structure increase elaboration (Experiment 1), which in turn impacts individuals’ confidence in their choice (Experiment 2) as well as the choice itself (Experiment 3). Collectively, the findings offer novel insight into the role of structure in promoting elaboration, and suggest that structure-seeking may be functional in part because it leads to more thoughtful, considered judgments and decisions.

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