Abstract Two experiments investigated the potential facilitative effects of prior instructed awareness and predetermined learning criteria on humans’ ability to make transitive inference (TI) judgments. Participants were first exposed to a learning phase and required to learn five premise pairs (A+B−, B+C−, C+D−, D+E−, E+F−). Testing followed, where participants made judgments on novel non-endpoint (BD, BE and CE) and endpoint inferential pairs (AC, AD, AE, AF, BF, CF and DF), as well as learned premise pairs. Across both experiments, one group were made aware that the stimuli could be arranged in a hierarchy, while another group were not given this instruction. Results demonstrated that prior instructional task awareness led to a minor performance advantage, but that this difference was not significant. Furthermore, in Experiment 2, inferential test trial accuracy was not correlated with a post-experimental measure of awareness. Thus, the current findings suggest that successful TI task performance may occur in the absence of awareness, and that repeated exposure to learning and test phases may allow weak inferential performances to emerge gradually. Further research and alternative methods of measuring awareness and its role in TI are needed.