In Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), he presents a model that simplifies the cognitive processes of the mind into two systems. System 1, or fast thinking, includes all the processes that occur automatically, emotionally, or by accessing and applying a simple rule. For example, if I were to ask you the answer to 2 multiplied by 6, your brain would access it’s memory banks, find the answer, and you could reply with very little effort. You likely memorized this in elementary school. If I were to ask you, however, what 361 multiplied by 210 would equal, your brain would access the rule for multiplication stored in your long term memory, and then use this rule to process the answer. Most people have not memorized this particular multiplication problem, only the rule that allows the solving of the problem. To solve the problem the rule must be applied in a way that requires more time and energy. This is what Kahneman refers to as System 2, or slow thinking.
Life is demanding, and a wise mind allocates resources economically. System 1 allows us to make snap decisions for simplistic problems. It’s great for when we have problems that can be solved by applying a rule that has been memorized. System 2 is great for those times when the problem is complicated, or is a problem that we have not yet encountered. Many mistakes are made, however, when one system is used in place of the other. Some decisions need to be made quickly, especially in matters of survival. Rules and skills can be learned and practiced until they become automatic, thus programming System 1 responses. Some decisions require much more processing than this because we have not yet gathered the data to learn the rules to apply. These decisions are best made with System 2. Because our minds seek to be efficient, however, we may be tempted to use System 1 in situations that actually require a higher level of processing. If the script from System 1 doesn’t fit what is actually occuring in the environment, a person needs to slow down their thinking until the solution is discovered.
In the Mandt System training program we recognize and teach that throughout our day to day interactions, much of our functioning is on auto-pilot. This is System 1. However, when conflict occurs or crisis occurs, the script changes. In this situation, it is advisable to take the time to evaluate the situation through the slower and more logical processes of System 2. Affirm your feelings, slow down, think it through, and choose the behaviors that are most likely to lead to the best possible outcome.
By John Windsor – Mandt Faculty