Kahneman's Mind-Clarifying System(s)

Feeling IS fast thinking. And emotions aren't always guilty of being irrational. Whenever pondering minds, always bear in mind Daniel Kahneman’s teachings on the brain.


1. Feeling is a form of thinking. Both are ways we process information, but feeling is faster. That’s the crux of Daniel Kahneman’s mind-clarifying work.

2. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman says social scientists until recently broadly believed that “people are generally rational…[and that] emotions…explain most [departures] from rationality.”

3. But research shows it’s unsafe to presume that emotions are guilty—”cognitive bias” studies trace systematic “errors to the… machinery of cognition…rather than corruption…by emotion.”

4. Kahneman using the brilliantly bland terms “System 1” and “System 2”—unburdened by the baggage of old associations—sidesteps centuries of confusion (and Freudian fictions).

5. System 1 “is the brain’s fast, automatic, intuitive approach,” System 2 “the mind’s slower, analytical mode, where reason” operates.  But “System 1 is...more influential… steering System 2 to a very large extent” (—>Hume’s “Reason Is and Ought Only to Be the Slave of the Passions,” 1738).

6. The measurable features of System 1 and System 2 cut across prior categories. System 1’s intuitive/emotional/fast information-processing is often logical and useful (e.g. intuition = System 1 pattern “recognition”). Conversely, System 2 thinking, despite being conscious and deliberate, can work badly, even irrationally (e.g. here, here, here).

7. Kahneman, astonished that economists were modelling people as “rational, and selfish” with stable tastes, whereas to psychologists it’s “self-evident that people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish” and have “anything but stable” tastes, launched behavioral economics.

8. Kahneman’s framework has limitations, e.g. cognitive biases can have two sources of error, the seemingly suboptimal behavior and the norms economists (mis)label “rational.”

10. Kahneman’s focus on explicit numerical decisions discounts that we didn't evolve to think numerically. Conscious math is a second nature skill, needing System 2 training (—>Hobbes “Reason is not...born with us… but attained by industry/training,” 1651).

11. Kahneman says we’re bad “intuitive” statisticians, but babies do astonishing System 1 statistical reasoning. And human speech requires strong intuitive stats (still beyond our best technology).

12. And cognitive biases might be (automatically triggered) bad System 1 habits rather than built-in brain bugs.

13. Limitations aside, whenever pondering cognition, bear in mind the distinct traits of System 1 and System 2. Mapping mental skills onto those labels can clarify your thinking about thinking.

--

Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.

 

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer
popular

Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
  • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
  • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
Keep reading Show less