We each have two methods of thinking, though it’s not something we talk about often. Daniel Kahneman is trying to change that conversation with his book Thinking Fast and Slow. In it, he introduces the concept of two systems of thinking, System 1 and System 2, and argues that we employ both of these on a regular basis. He thinks we think both quickly on the small stuff and slowly on the bigger stuff.
Have you thought about the way you think? It’s a difficult rhythm to get into — thinking about thinking — and it’s nearly headache-inducing. How are we supposed to know the way we think? Kahneman says there are two systems:
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- System 1 is fast, instinctive, and emotional. It’s the kind of thinking where we see quick math, such as 1+1=2, and solve it immediately–almost without thinking at all.
- System 2, requires more effort and process. Think of driving into a crowded parking lot and trying to squeeze your car into an open spot. You need concentration to maneuver your car away from other cars as well as get into the spot without any scratches.
The good news is we use both these systems all the time, whether we acknowledge them or not. They help us with our choices. They help us grow our experiences. But does knowing which systems to use help us make better decisions?
Kahneman argues that humans are not rational beings and using these systems can help us rationalize our daily life, increasing our ability to make better decisions. Can you think of a time in your life when you rushed into something and didn’t see the results you wanted? After the fact, we tend to say things like, “I wasn’t prepared” or “I wasn’t ready”. In many cases, that could very well be evidence of us failing to use the right thinking system.
Think of it this way:
You have the ability to decide what you want to do next in your life. No one can make this decision for you. How much time do you spend on it? Do you create a pros and cons list to ensure that you’re learning all you can about this decision? Or do you roll the dice and choose the first thing you’re inspired to do? While a deep decision like this requires System 2 thinking, it’s not guaranteed that everyone will end up using the appropriate system. A person who leaves most things to chance and changes their mind about heavy decisions is accessing System 1 thinking. A person who is more methodical will use System 2.
But this is not an exclusive thing.
Perhaps the person who uses System 1 to decide their future might use System 2 when picking what to wear out that evening. Human beings are varied, and so is our thinking methodology. It all depends on what you find most important in your life. That is how you can determine just how long it will take you to make a rational decision–or if a rational decision is even necessary.
Kahneman’s systems place our thinking in neat boxes. But those boxes often cross and mix with each other. That’s the beauty of the way we see the world.
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