2013. Vol.4, No.11, 798-803
Published Online November 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.411114
Does System 1 Process both Local and Nonlocal Information in
Intuitive Judgment and Decision Making? Available Evidence and
a Research Agenda Proposal
Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università di Padova, Padova, Italy
Received July 31st, 2013; revised September 1st, 2013; accepted October 2nd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Patrizio Tressoldi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
This paper argues that System 1, (the mental processing system mainly involved in the processing of un-
conscious information) in contrast to System 2, (mainly involved in the processing of conscious informa-
tion), processes not only local information conveyed by sensory organs, but also nonlocal ones, that is,
those beyond the detection range of sensory organs. The striking similarities observed between the char-
acteristics of local and nonlocal information processing by System 1, offer the possibility of using most of
the experimental protocols used to investigate local information for the nonlocal information. Available
evidence is presented and a research agenda is outlined that could raise fascinating questions and answer
about the functioning of the human mind.
Keywords: System 1; System 2; Unconscious Information Processing; Nonlocal Information
Dual-Process Model of Information Processing:
System 1 and Sy stem 2
Although some authors have traced the dual-process theory
of information processing to William James, a consensus has
been achieved on the theoretical and empirical definition of two
distinct ways of perceiving and thinking that characterize the
functioning of human mental activity, System 1 and System 2
as defined by Epstein (1994, 2008); Stanovich (1999); Kahne-
man, (2003, 2011); Kahneman & Frederick (2002); Evans &
These information processing systems can be summarised as
the extremes of a continuum with System 1 as a fast, automatic,
emotional, stereotypic, large capacity, sub- and unconscious way
of processing at one end, and System 2 as a slow, effortful, ca-
pacity limited, controlled and conscious way of processing in-
formation at the other.
There is some evidence that System 1’s unconscious cogni-
tive activity influences consumer preferences (Friese, Wänke,
& Plessner, 2006), interpersonal processes (Fitzsimons &
Bargh, 2003), emotional reactions (Tamietto et al., 2009) and
the pursuit of specific goals (Custers & Aarts, 2010).
A useful and clearly expressed comparison of the main char-
acteristics of System 1 and System 2 within four different clus-
ters, is offered by Evans (2008)1, see Table 1.
At present, the theoretical and empirical investigation is lar-
gely devoted to the exploration of the conditions that trigger the
activation of one system or the other, (e.g. Greifeneder, Bless,
& Pham, 2011; Bolte & Goschke, 2005; Evans & Stanovich,
2013), defining which problems can be solved more effi-
ciently by using one system or the other, (e.g. Usher et al., 2011),
and determining if and how these two systems can interact to
exploit their characteristics for increasing information process-
ing efficiency (e.g. Evans, 2008; Kruglanski & Gigerenzer,
What information do these two systems use? The general
consensus is that all the information is received only by the sen-
As strange as it may seem, there is a research line more than
80 years old, which investigates whether the human mind can
process information received by bypassing the sensory organs
(see Tressoldi, 2011, for a review) although it has only recently
been theoretically and empirically examined within a dual-sys-
tem framework. Even if it pursued under different names and
theoretical approaches, we can define this as the study of Sys-
tem1 nonlocal information processing. In the following sections
we define the characteristics of this information processing sys-
tem. We then outline the empirical findings obtained so far and
conclude with a proposal for a research agenda to pursue inves-
tigation of the interactions in the processing systems of both lo-
cal and nonlocal information.
Could System 1 Process No nlocal Information2?
Suppose our brain and consequently our mind could receive
information related to objects, people, emotions, natural envi-
2The meaning of “nonlocal” is used here only as presented in the text and
not as physical or biological quantum-like properties. An interpretation o
mental nonlocal functions as possible physical or biological quantum-like
properties is presented in Tressoldi & Khrennikov (2012).
1A similar comparison has been done by Epstein (2008).
Clusters of attributes associated with dual systems of thinking follow-
ing Evans (2008).
System 1 System 2
Unconscious (preconscious) Conscious
Low effort High effort
High capacity Low capacity
Default process Inhibitory
Holistic, perceptual Analytic, reﬂective
Evolutionarily old Evolutionarily recent
Evolutionary rationality Individual rationality
Shared with animals Uniquely human
Nonverbal Linked to language
Modular cognition Fluid intelligence
Cluster 3—Functional char acteristics
Associative Rule based
Domain speciﬁc Domain general
Cluster 4—Individual differences
Independent of general intelligence Linked to general intelligence
Independent of working memory Limited by working memory capacity
ronment, etc., from beyond the constraints of our sensory or-
gans by acting like an information detector. In simple terms,
this would involve expressing nonlocal perception characteris-
tics in different ways from the perception of information trans-
mitted by our sensory organs which are limited by their bio-
logical detection range.
We will call this System 1 nonlocal information processing
(S1_nip) postulating that its activity precedes System 1 local
processing (S1_lip) and obviously System 2 activity.
The hypothesis of a mind or consciousness without space and
perhaps time constraints is not new and we can trace its roots
back to certain philosophical theories, such as idealism, panp-
sychism, neutral or mental monism and more recently non-
physical realism (Staune, 2013) and the dual-aspect monism
For example, Idealism is the family of views which assert
that reality, or reality as we know it, is fundamentally mental,
mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial (e.g. Bolender,
Panpsychism states that mind is a fundamental feature of the
world which exists throughout the universe. Unsurprisingly,
each of the key terms, “mind”, “fundamental” and “throughout
the universe” is subject to a variety of interpretations by panp-
sychists, leading to a range of possible philosophical positions
Mental Monism holds that all is mind and that the ultimate
constituents of the world are individual momentary experiences
which in themselves are neither mental nor physical, but of
which, differently arranged, both minds and material things are
composed. In other words, the concept of nature itself is a con-
struct of mind that can only be known through hypotheses test-
ed by reference to experience (Velmans, 2012).
Non-physical realism refers to the assumption that reality
cannot be explained exclusively by observable causes in space-
time and consciousness and matter stem from a unique sub-
stance that would “ante-date the scission between the subject
and the objet” (Staune, 2013) a theoretical approach similar to
the dual-aspect monism (Antmaspacher, 2012) elaborated after
a detailed reconstruction of the Pauli-Jung conjecture which
yields a psychophysically neutral, unitary reality beyond the
distinction of the mental and the material.
In psychology, the term and characteristics of nonlocal mind
or consciousness were first proposed by Dossey (1989) and
more recently by Clarke (1995) and Carpenter (2004, 2012) in
his First Sight Model.
This paper is the first systematic proposal to introduce this
model of processing within the dual-model framework.
Which nonlocal information can be received by S1_nip? In
theory it should be all the information available in the universe
regardless of distance and perhaps time constraints. But how
can a living mind survive this massive flow of information?
One possibility, supported by evidence (see Section 2), is that
this information has a very low signal-to-noise ratio and in the
normal condition of the mind functioning in a waking status of
consciousness, System 2 and S1_lip functioning will almost
completely mask nonlocal information signals. A good analogy
is our daily immersion in the ocean of information transmitted
by electromagnetic waves that we are unaware of until we de-
cide to perceive them by tuning our detectors, radio, smart-
phones, etc. to amplify their signal strength to a level compati-
ble with our sensory organs’ detection characteristics.
If this assumption is correct, we should observe better detec-
tion of nonlocal information reducing or bypassing the activity
of S1_lip and System 2 processing of local information. How is
it possible to reduce or bypass S1_lip and System 2 activity?
One possibility is to reduce or eliminate completely the flow
of information sent by the sensory organs and the information
processing of S1_lip and System 2. For example, to reduce the
flow of information sent by the sensory organs, participants in
experiments have been immersed in a ganzfeld environment
(see a description of a typical protocol in the Appendix). An-
other alternative to bypassing S1_lip and System 2 activity is to
record the neuro- or psychophysiological signals correlated with
nonlocal information (see description in the Appendix). With
these two experimental protocols, the supposedly non-local in-
formation may be detected consciously because any other
Open Access 799
mental activity of S1_lip and System 2 is maximally reduced in
a ganzfeld environment, whereas with the second protocol it is
possible to detect directly the purported nonlocal information at
an unconscious level when it impinges on the central or periph-
eral nervous system.
It is relevant at this point to ask what the differences are in
S1_nip detection accuracy for nonlocal information with dif-
ferent degrees of S1_lip and Sensory 2 involvement. In Table 2,
we list the best evidence available from meta-analyses in de-
creasing order of effect size (ES) values expressed as Cohen’s d
standardised difference. Except for the “anticipatory physio-
logical signals” where ES is the difference between the two sti-
mulus categories, in all of the other experimental conditions, ES
is the difference with respect to the expected chance.
From the data presented in Table 2, it is clear that the detec-
tion of information of S1_nip decreases almost linearly, passing
from a condition where S1_lip and System 2 are bypassed, i.e.
in dream status or when recording neuro- and psychophysiolo-
gical signals, to a condition where S1_lip and System 2 activity
is reduced, i.e. in a ganzfeld environment or in an altered state
of consciousness, to conditions in which nonlocal information
is almost completely lost, i.e. in normal status of consciousness
when S1_lip and System 2 are both active, independently if free
or forced-choice procedures are used. In summary, the more
System 2 and S1_lip are activated, the more nonlocal informa-
tion is destroyed (suppressed) in analogy with a situation where
we try to understand what a friend is telling us in a disco.
If we compare the efficiency of S1_lip in some experimental
conditions, we can see how much stronger is its detection ac-
curacy with respect to S1_nip (see Table 3).
Similarly to what has been observed for S1_nip, we can see
Experimental evidence obtained from meta-analyses of S1_nip detec-
tion accuracy in decreasing order of ES values.
condition Source N. Studies
effect ES (95% CI)
Dream Sherwood and
Roe (2003) 22 .24 (.20 - .28)
Mossbridge et al.
(2012) 26 .21 (.13 - .29)
Free response in
Ganzfeld Tressoldi (2011)108 .13 (.09 - .17)
ASC* Storm et al. (2010)16 .11 (.03 - .19)
Tressoldi et al.
(submitted) 82 .09 (.06 - .12)
NSC Tressoldi (2011)72 .01(.006 - .015)
NSC Storm et al. (2010)14 −.03 (−.06 - .002)
Note: *ASC = altered states of consciousness, like hypnosis, deep meditation;
**NSC = normal state of consciousness.
Some Experimental evidence obtained from meta-analyses of S1_lip
detection accuracy in decreasing order of ES values.
condition Source N. Studies
Weighted random effect
ES (95% CI)
Van den Bussche
et al. (2009) 23 .80 (.60 - 1.00)
Van den Bussche
et al. (2009) 32 .47 (.36 - .58)
Sio & Ormerod
(2009) 117 .29 (.20 - .38)
Strick et al.
(2011) 92 .22 (.14 - .30)
that the S1_lip efficiency decreases when passing from condi-
tions where System 2 is bypassed, i.e. priming, to conditions
where System 2 is temporarily inhibited (Van den Bussche et
al., 2009) or made busy during System 1 processing, i.e., prob-
lem-solving incubation and unconscious complex problem-sol-
ving tasks (i.e. Sio & Ormerod, 2009; Strick et al., 2011).
The comparison of ESs presented in Tables 2 and 3, clearly
shows the superior efficiency of S1_lip where the information
is sent to the sensory organs in any case, with respect to S1_nip.
The smallest efficiency values of S1_lip are close to the largest
values of S1_nip, supporting the hypothesis that the nonlocal
information signal-to-noise ratio is weak and hence its detection
can easily be suppressed by S1_lip or System 2 processing ac-
tivity, even if we cannot exclude the possibility that it still has a
weak influence both of them.
System 1 Local and Nonlocal Information
At this point it is possible to compare the characteristics of
S1_nip and S1_lip using the same template used to compare
S1_lip with System 2 (see Table 4).
The characteristics in bold are those assumed to be specific
only to S1_nip. Those with a question mark, need to be tested.
A striking similarity emerges with regard to the characteris-
tics of the two information processing systems. A few basic dif-
ferences obviously exist in terms of their origin, receptive ca-
pacity, constraints imposed by sensory organs for S1_lip, un-
bounded for S1_nip and different interference vulnerability,
partly consequent on the different signal-to-noise ratios that are
higher for S1_lip.
A Research Agenda
The analysis of the characteristics of S1_lip and S1_nip,
suggests that, apart from the basic difference in the source of
information, they should function in a very similar way even if
the effects on behaviour and System 2 are stronger for S1_lip
and interference of System 2 is stronger for S1_nip than S1_lip.
It follows that most of the experimental protocols that are
used to study S1_lip can be used to study S1_nip. For example,
all the protocols used to study the priming effects with S1_lip
can easily be adapted to study these effects, presenting both
subliminal and completely masked priming information. For
example, Figure 1 shows a classical example of semantic prim-
ing where the priming, the picture of a hammer in this case, is
presented subliminally. If we present the picture of the hammer
3We are aware that the interpretation of this evidence (as support to the
reality of nonlocal perception) is hotly debated, but there is not sufficient
space in this paper to discuss all alternative explanations.
Similarities and differences between S1_nip and S1_lip.
Unconscious (preconscious) Unconscious (preconscious)
Low effort Low effort
High capacity High capacity
Default process Default process
Holistic, perceptual Holistic, perceptual
Evolutionarily innate Evolutionarily old
Evolutionary rationality Evolutionary rationality
Shared with animals Shared with animals
Modular cognition Modular cognition
Cluster 3—Functional char acteristics
Domain speciﬁc Domain speciﬁc
Cluster 4—Individual differences
Independent of general intelligence Independent of general intelligence
Independent of working memory Independent of working memory
Cluster 5—Interaction with System 2
Affect System 2 Affect System 2
Affected by System 2 Affected by System 2
Cluster 6—Sens orial charac teristics
Unbounded by sensory organs
detection characteristics Bounded by sensory organs
Interference from information
out of sensory detection No influence by information
out of sensory detection
Very low signal/noise ratio
Signal/noise ratio depends
from the duration and the
strength of sensory organs
Classical example of a procedure to investigate uncon-
scious semantic priming.
completely covered, we can investigate whether naming can be
primed by the nonlocal perception.
If our premises are valid, we should observe similar priming
effects in both conditions even if they are weaker (i.e. lower
effect sizes) associated with the presentation of nonlocal infor-
One example on how to combine subliminal and nonlocal
information, is offered by Carpenter, Simmonds-Moore and
Moore (2012) that studied the Mere Exposure Effect, that is the
tendency for persons to experience a greater liking or attraction
for things as a function of having been exposed to them previ-
ously. These authors used both subliminal and nonlocal infor-
mation by simply masking them completely during their pres-
entation in a way that no sensory information is available.
Other functioning similarities are expected. For example it
could be tested if semantic and perceptual object features pre-
sented out of the range of the detection of sensory organs, dif-
ferentially modulates the sensitivity of unconscious processing
pathways, producing similar effects of attentional induction
such as those studied by Martens, Ansorge, & Kiefer (2011).
The core of this research agenda should be the study of the
relationships between these three information processing sys-
tems. Thus some of the main questions that need to be asked
What are the adaptive advantages of having both an S1_lip
and an S1_nip?
Can an S1_lip and an S1_nip be used cooperatively to en-
hance their specific properties?
What are the neuro- and psychophysiological correlates of
an S1_lip and an S1_nip?
How can we exploit the information processing of S1_nip,
for example by detecting and amplifying the signal strength
of its neuro- and psychophysiological correlates, to assist
System 2 information processing?
Are some so-called “anomalous” or “exceptional” percep-
tual and cognitive experiences a sign of enhanced S1_nip
(e.g. Fach et al., 2013)?
What is the role of implicit goals pursuit (Custers & Aarts,
2010) and basic needs (see Epstein, 2008) in the facilitation
or inhibition of S1_nip detection accuracy?
Which individual differences facilitate the use of S1_lip and
S1_nip information in avoiding the interference of System 2
(e.g. the role of Zen meditation, Strick et al., 2012)?
Open Access 801
Many more questions are obviously possible, but their reso-
lution depends on how many scientists are interested in explor-
ing this frontier of the human mind.
English was independently revised by the Proof Reading Ser-
vice and the Professional Editing Services
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Synthetic Description of a Typical Experimental
Protocol for the Study of S1_Nip Perception in a
In a typical ganzfeld experiment, the “receiver” is left in a
room relaxing in a comfortable chair with halved ping-pong
balls over the eyes, and with a red light shining on them. The
receiver is asked to keep his/her eyes open, and to wear head-
phones through which white or pink noise is played. The re-
ceiver is exposed to this state of mild sensory homogenization
for about a half hour.
During this time a target usually a photograph or a short
videoclip randomly drawn from a set of four possible targets
(each as different from one another as possible) is projected on
a screen located in a distant room isolated from the “receiver’s”
room without any possibility to receive sensory information (a
common variant is the use of a “sender” who observes the cho-
During the ganzfeld stimulation period, the receiver verbally
describes any impressions that come to mind. These “menta-
tions” are recorded by the experimenter (who is also blind to
the target) via an audio recording or by taking notes, or both.
After the ganzfeld period ends, the receiver is taken out of the
ganzfeld state and is presented with four photos or video clips,
one of which was the target along with three decoys. The re-
ceiver is asked to choose which target best resembles the image
sent by the distant sender.
The evaluation of a trial is based on (a) selection of one im-
age by the receiver, based on his/her assessment of the similar-
ity between his/her subjective impressions and the various tar-
get possibilities, possibly enhanced by listening to his/her men-
tation recorded during the session, or (b) an independent ju-
dge’s assessment of similarity between the various targets and
the participant’s mentation recorded during the session. The re-
sults are then collected in the form of “hit rates” over many
trials, (i.e., the proportion of trials in which the target was cor-
rectly identified). Because four possible targets are typically
used in these studies, the chance hit rate is normally 25%. After
many repeated trials, hit rates that significantly exceed chance
expectation are taken as evidence for nonlocal information trans-
fer. Most of these experiments are now fully automated, elimi-
nating the possibility of data recording errors.
Synthetic Description of a Typical Experimental
Protocol for the Study of S1_Nip Perception
Recording Ne uro and/or Psychophysiological
Two paradigms are used: 1) randomly ordered presentations
of arousing vs. neutral stimuli, or 2) guessing tasks for which
the stimulus is the feedback about the participant’s guess (cor-
rect vs. incorrect). In arousing vs. neutral stimulus paradigms,
participants are shown, for example, a randomly intermixed se-
ries of violent and emotionally neutral photographs on each
trial, and there is no a priori way to predict which type of sti-
mulus will be viewed in the upcoming trial. In guessing tasks,
on each trial participants are asked to predict randomly selected
future stimuli (such as which of four cards will appear on the
screen) and once they have made their prediction, they then
view the target stimulus, which becomes feedback for the par-
Because participants perform at chance on these tasks, gues-
sing tasks generally create a random distribution of events pro-
ducing separable physiological responses that reflect brief states
of positive arousal (following feedback indicating a correct
guess) and negative and/or lower arousal (following feedback
indicating an incorrect guess). Regardless of the paradigm, phy-
siological measures [skin conductance, heart rate, blood volume,
respiration, electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, pupil dila-
tion, blink rate, and/or blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD)
responses] are recorded throughout the session, and stimulus
times are usually marked in the physiological trace itself. These
continuous data are later portioned according to a pre-deter-
mined “anticipatory period” designated for analysis (generally
0.5 - 10 s preceding stimulus presentation, depending on the
temporal sensitivity of the physiological measure and the inter-
trial interval). The portioned data are marked according to the
type of stimuli they precede (arousing or neutral stimuli for the
arousing vs. neutral paradigm, feedback indicating correct or
incorrect guesses for the guessing paradigm). Pre-stimulus data
are then compared across stimulus types.
It has been known for some time that arousing and neutral
stimuli produce somewhat different post-stimulus physiological
responses in humans. However, what is remarkable is that
many of the studies examined here make the claim that, for ins-
tance, the same physiological measure that yields a differen-
tial post-stimulus response to two stimulus classes also yields a
differential pre-stimulus response to those same stimulus class-
es, prior even to the random selection of the stimulus type by
the computer. Authors of these studies often refer to the effect
as presentiment (sensing an event before it occurs) or unex-
plained anticipatory activity; we favor the latter terminalogy as
it describes the phenomenon without implying that the effect
truly reflects a reversal of the usual forward causality.
Open Access 803