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How do we think? The two thought systems of Daniel Kahneman

How do we think? The two thought systems of Daniel Kahneman

May 6, 2021

According to author Shanon M. Koening, people have 60,000 thoughts a day and most are negative. Such a shocking figure makes us think about how little we know about thinking and the great influence it has on our behavior and decision making.

Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist with Nobel Prize

A reputed American psychologist realized the importance of thinking and his research led him to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001 . To explain the theory that led him to obtain the Nobel Prize, Kahneman begins by raising his students the following conundrum:

Do not try to solve this exercise and try to use intuition:


A bat and a ball cost 1.10. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The answer of 10 cents is presented as a quick, powerful and attractive intuition, but it is incorrect.

To reach the correct solution, 5 cents, many of us will have to resort to pencil and paper, transforming the riddle into a mathematical equation. We will have to resort to the slowest and most fatiguing way of thinking that our brain allows. Some psychologists consider that this type of test is a more valid predictor of intelligence than current IQ tests . In this case, it serves to illustrate that intuitions can be wrong, no matter how powerful they may seem.


Kahneman uses this example to describe the two different ways in which the mind creates thought.

First, there is the System 1 or implicit . This way of thinking is fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotyped and subconscious. On the other hand, there is the System 2 or explicit . It is slow, lazy, infrequent, logical, calculating and is accompanied by the awareness of solving a problem.

These two systems of antagonistic nature are found in the day to day of all the decisions of our life.

How do the 2 systems of thought work?

The quick 10 cent solution with which you gave quickly at the beginning of the year is due to the operation of System 1 offering a reasonable response. However, when you used the pen and paper, you used System 2, which on this occasion offered you the correct solution of 5 cents, a slower and more expensive solution but, after all, the correct answer.


This is so because system 1, moved by intuition and heuristics, It allows us to do simple tasks such as walking or brushing our teeth effortlessly . On the contrary, system 2 will be at stake when we are doing the most complicated tasks, such as learning to drive.

Both system 1 and system 2 are continuously active and in communication. System 1 determines our thoughts with external perceptions, visual and associative memory, and then develops a framed conclusion, which we do not even question, thus avoiding any other alternative history. The challenge is that I usually do a good job, so that we can trust him.

Intuitions guide our day to day

Using the theory of heuristics, Kahneman states that system 1 associates new information with existing patterns, or thoughts, rather than creating new patterns for each new experience. to . This results in different types of biases. System 1, by generating narrow and framed thinking, tries to show that it leads to a confirmation bias. The confirmation bias leads people to ignore some evidence that contradicts such thinking, and is one of the biggest individual problems when companies make decisions.

In short, people tend to look for information that validates their initial hypothesis. Kahneman details a series of experiments that aim to highlight the differences between these two thought processes and how they reach different results even if they receive the same information.

Now you know a little more about those products that your brain generates an average of 60,000 times a day, and about how many of them are generated quickly and without taking into account all the present information leading to erroneous conclusions.

So, the next time you make a bad decision, do not put it on your face . Now you know that system 1 is acting automatically and that the best decision you can make is to take paper and pen so that thought system 2 activates and takes you to make the right decisions.


Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast vs. Thinking Slow | Inc. Magazine (May 2021).


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