Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Two Systems Of Thinking

We can roughly map our judgement and decision-making activities in to two formats. As a Psychiatrist; I am well aware of how puny our understanding of the brain and it's chemistry is. So I will not make any dogmatic claims on neurology. 

SYSTEM 1 - This is the intuition-based, emotional, almost automatic, effortless and above all a quick way to decisions. It's the short-cuts we take due to experience or innate impulses (like self-preservation). These short-cuts are studied in the branch called "Heuristics". Obviously a short-cut will sometimes cause mistakes and these mistakes are called "Biases". Biases may be positive or negative in quantity and can be measured so we can get the accurate picture. This "fast and frugal" experiential system is considered the "limbic brain". Humans share this kind of decision-making with birds and animals. Malcolm Gladwell describes this system in his book called "Blink". The process you run through is more opaque than System 2 processes.

SYSTEM 2- This system really sets "Man" at the head of the created order. You obviously do not know of your pet dog or cat or parrot thinking hard about the ultimate meaning of life. Nor do you see them ever able to handle problems of logic, mathematics and twists of language. This system is considered the "cortical brain" and it is the slow, logical, progressive kind of thinking which really drains you. Since you are aware of the progression of your thoughts you can retrace the mental events and see where you went wrong.

In my next post we will see where to use which system and the implications of messing up on this vital distinction.


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