Thinking Fast Thinking Slow, a Guide to a Better Understanding of Human Thinking

Daniel Kahneman is a researcher, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Economics, and Law, and Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences recipient. He won the award in 2002 for his work on behavioral economics and decision-making under conditions of risk. He came to prominence outside academia with the publication in 2011 of his book Thinking Fast and Slow, which describes two different modes of thought: System 1 is quick and intuitive, while System 2 is slower but more analytical. Kahneman is currently affiliated with the Princeton University Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences.

In 2011, Daniel Kahneman wrote an interesting book on how our brains think and operate. Based on long-term research studies, he discovered that humans often categorize and follow thinking patterns that are either intuitive or logical. To his knowledge and understanding, thinking involves the combination of two patterns, system 1 is automatic, and system two is logical.

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System 1 is the intuitive pattern of the brain. He refers to system one as fast or fast and automatic, while system 2 is slow and logical. Using this logic, we all tend to rely on our quick gut feeling even when presented with logical and rational facts. System 1 is faster and more flexible by nature, while system two is more logical and rigid.
Though Kahneman acknowledges that our brains have different systems in operation at any given time, he also claims this categorization of thinking patterns may be useful in understanding certain aspects of human behavior.

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This categorization of thinking patterns can also be applied to the process of learning. As humans, we all have our own set of experiences and things known to us, therefore we think in a manner based on these experiences. To achieve any new learning endeavor, we must practice actively and persistently. If you are a beginner piano player, performance is not the only way you will improve your skills as a musician. You will also travel through the intuitive systonemone1 by practicing your melody or chord choices repetitively until it becomes automatic and eventually becomes second nature to you. I believe this is also part of the process to master any other instrument/music that requires certain types of knowledge.

In learning and exploring new ideas, the intuitive system 1 often comes into play. We all rely on this primary learning mechanism to learn new things. Our brains are “hard-wired” to react in a certain way, similar to our past experiences. Kahneman writes about how we believe our intuition is always right and logical thinking is never right in his book. However, as mentioned above, he also states there are certain limitations of this logic. I hope this article helps you understand how your natural mode of thinking works and can be applied to enhance what you are trying to achieve with your life.

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A common fallacy is that intuition is always right, and logic is never right. In his book, Kahneman states that it may be a good idea to avoid relying too much on your intuitions under certain circumstances; However, this does not mean logic is always right, and intuition is never right. The key is to understand the situations when you should use them. Kahneman gives one example that may help explain this idea:

Suppose you are a juror in a murder trial. The evidence points overwhelmingly to the defendant’s guilt, but there is a shred of doubt. You must choose between two conclusions: (1) the police have arrested the wrong man, or (2) the police are so thorough that they always get their man. After much agonizing, you opt for the latter possibility, which leads you to vote “guilty.” While chatting after the trial with another juror who voted “not guilty,” you express your doubts and receive encouragement: “The evidence against him seemed pretty convincing. The cops must know what they’re doing. I thought there was no way he could have been innocent.” Thus reassured, you go home feeling very pleased with your decision.

Hence, the case was mostly false. The defendant was almost certainly guilty; the police got lucky. But how can you be sure? After all, intuition is often trustworthy, and logic is often wrong . . . when people find a conclusion acceptable, they focus on arguments for it and notice evidence that seems to support it. When they find a conclusion unacceptable, they focus on arguments against it and notice evidence that refutes it. Suppose one’s intuitive belief is that the defendant is guilty. In that case, one will reject as irrelevant any evidence favoring innocence (e.g., “The police always get their man”) and accept as relevant any evidence of guilt (e.g., “His clothes were bloody”).

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Suppose one’s intuitive belief is that the defendant is innocent. In that case, one will reject as irrelevant any evidence of guilt (e.g., “The police make mistakes”) and accept as relevant any evidence of innocence (e.g., “He was on the verge of crying during his interrogation”). The same process applies when defending one’s beliefs against arguments that are not presented explicitly — when, for example, one is asked to imagine counter-refute events and refute them. In other words, it is not just logic but also an intuition that plays a role in our decision-making process.

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