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A Nobel Prize Winner Explains How to Finally Think Clearly

System 2 Thinking

System 2 thinking informs how you focus on a particular task by using expert knowledge and focusing or applying conscious effort.

Consider driving to work and encountering an accident. This unexpected change demands you pay attention to your environment and monitor your behavior.

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A Nobel Prize Winner Explains How to Finally Think Clearly

A Nobel Prize Winner Explains How to Finally Think Clearly

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryancollinseurope/2018/09/04/a-nobel-prize-winner-explans-how-to-finally-think-clearly/

forbes.com

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Key Ideas

System 1 Thinking

The main function of System 1 is to maintain and update a model of your personal world, which represents what is normal in it.

Consider driving your car from home to work on a quiet road.

You understand the tasks involved, such as using your car's indicators, accelerating, decelerating and so on, but breaking down exactly what you did to reach the office safely, step-by-step is difficult. Driving your car along a familiar route is intuitive.

System 2 Thinking

System 2 thinking informs how you focus on a particular task by using expert knowledge and focusing or applying conscious effort.

Consider driving to work and encountering an accident. This unexpected change demands you pay attention to your environment and monitor your behavior.

How to Use System 1 and System 2 Thinking Together

If you feel a gut reaction after meeting a hire, it's probably System 1 thinking.

But you can mitigate the risk of hiring the wrong person by engaging System 2 thinking. Check their references. Ask probing questions. Validate your gut reaction with other members of your team.

The trick is to be aware of switching from one system to the other. It’s useful to understand when you are thinking on autopilot, when you are paying attention and what's inside your mental toolbox.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

System 1 

The focus of this system is: 

  • To maintain a representation of your world. It is an automatically learned skill. For example, driving your car along a familiar route r...
System 2

The purpose of this system is to focus your attention on a particular task by using expert knowledge and applying a conscious mental effort.

Consider driving to work and coming across an accident. This unexpected change demands you to pay particular attention to your environment. Filling in a tax form is another example of System 2 thinking.

Combining System 1 & 2

The two systems guide how you think. Be mindful when you move from one system to the other.

It is possible to make decisions based on your feelings when you have taxed your mind too much with effortful activities. It is useful to understand when you are thinking on autopilot, and when you are working with your metal toolbox.

Think like Sherlock Holmes

“What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

"Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought...

Engagement
As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

 As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

Pitfalls of the Untrained Brain

Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

  • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
  • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.

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Effort as Energy Expenditure
Effort as Energy Expenditure

Effort represents an investment of a fixed resource, like calories.

For this reason, running takes more effort than sitting. It takes more calories and strains muscles and joints. If y...

Effort as Attention

Paying attention seems to be linked to effort, since deliberate control of attention take effort.

Focus is only hard if we're trying to focus. If our attention is held automatically, focus is not an effort.

Effort as the Opposite of Habit

Effort could be seen as the opposite of something we do automatically. Effort then is what happens when we try to override an automatic pattern.

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Information that matches our beliefs

We surround ourselves with it: We tend to like people who think like us; if we agree with someone's beliefs, we're more likely to be friends with them.

This makes sense, but it means ...

The "swimmer's body illusion"

It's a thinking mistake and it occurs when we confuse selection factors with results. 

Professional swimmers don't have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques.

The sunk cost fallacy

It plays on this tendency of ours to emphasize loss over gain.

The term sunk cost refers to any cost that has been paid already and cannot be recovered. The reason we can't ignore the cost, even though it's already been paid, is that we're wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain.

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Intuition as a tool

Emotions and intuition are not fallible tools that always need to be ignored or even corrected by rational faculties,.

Intuition is the result of a lot of processing that happens in the brain...

Predictive processing framework

Research suggests that the brain is a large predictive machine, constantly comparing incoming sensory information and current experiences against stored knowledge and memories of previous experiences, and predicting what will come next. This is described in what scientists call the “predictive processing framework”.

This ensures that the brain is always as prepared to deal with the current situation as optimally as possible.

The two thinking styles
Intuitive thinking is described as automatic, fast, and subconscious. Analytic thinking, on the other hand, is slow, logical, conscious and deliberate. Analytic and intuitive thinking are not opposites. They are complementary and can work in concert.

Even groundbreaking scientific research may start with intuitive knowledge that enables scientists to formulate innovative ideas and hypotheses, which later can be validated through rigorous testing and analysis.

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The rational manner

When faced with a difficult dilemma, we should carefully assess our options and spend a few moments consciously deliberating the information. Then, we should choose the best fit for our preferences...

The emotional system
It's only in the last few years that researchers have demonstrated that the emotional system might excel at complex decisions, or those involving lots of variables.

This would suggest that the unconscious is better suited for difficult cognitive tasks than the conscious brain, that the very thought process we've long disregarded as irrational and impulsive might actually be "smarter" than reasoned deliberation.

How emotional decision-making works

Thinking in a rational manner is more effective when there are limited pieces of information.  However, those focused on feelings prove far better in complex conditions

The advantages of emotional decision-making could be undone by a subsequent bout of deliberation, which suggests that we shouldn't doubt a particularly strong instinct, at least when considering lots of information.

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Using 10% of our brains

The source of this figure isn't entirely clear.

People's capacity to develop any skill is a combination of practice and talent. A person can get quite good at almost any skill if they practic...

Left-brained or right-brained

People used to speak of being left or right-brain dominant (where the left brain is more logical and algorithmic, and the right brain more artistic and intuitive).

However, both hemispheres of your brain are involved in all of the complex work you do. The most effective thinkers are the ones who learn to rely on both their intuitive judgments as well as their reasoning.

Emotions and rational thinking

The theory goes that emotions reflect a more primitive form of thinking and that good thinking is only logical.

However, when faced with risky decisions, it is possible to talk yourself into almost anything. But, even a little anxiety in that situation can provide information too valuable to ignore.

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The 37%

Mathematics dictates that you should take 37% of the time or options you have to simply look and after that, you should commit to the first option that is better than everything you’ve ...

The brain when we make decisions

The 2 systems of the brain that wok during decision making:

  • System 1 is automatic and quick (like "something feeling off").
  • System 2 is deliberate and slow (like an algorithm).

At times, these systems are at odds with each other, but research shows it's always best to trust an algorithm than your own gut.

Pros-and-cons lists are flawed

There are a few biases they don't address:

  • Narrow framing: the tendency to view an option as your only option.
  • Confirmation bias: our tendency to gather the information that supports our preferred option.
  • Short-term emotion: our tendency to have our judgment clouded when emotions run high.
  • Overconfidence: our tendency to make a decision with too much optimism about how things will play out.

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Anchoring Bias

A common occurrence of heuristics in which we use an initial starting point as an anchor that is then adjusted to yield a final estimate or value.

Example: estimating the value of an o...

Being Too Optimistic

People who are told that the risk of something bad happening is lower than they expected, tend to adjust their predictions to match the new information. But they ignore the new information when the risk is higher.

Part of this overly optimistic outlook stems from our natural tendency to believe that bad things happen to other people, but not to us. 

You Often Make Poor Comparisons

Sometimes we make poor comparisons or the compared items are not representative or equal.

We often decide based on rapid comparisons without really thinking about our options. In order to avoid bad decisions, relying on logic and thoughtful examination of the options can sometimes be more important than relying on your immediate "gut reaction."

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A clear mind
A clear mind

Running never fails to clear your head. Do you have to make a potentially life-altering decision? Go for a run. Are you feeling mad or sad? Go for a run.

A run can sometimes make you ...

Exercise and improved memory

Neuroscience used to think that our brains got a set amount of neurons. However, studies in animal models show that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan.

Vigorous aerobic exercise - about 30 to 40 minutes - is the only activity that triggers the birth of those new neurons. The new neurons are created in the region of the brain associated with learning and memory, partially explaining the link between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.

The brain’s frontal lobe

Increased activity is seen in the brain’s frontal lobe after adopting a long-term habit of physical activity. After about 30 - 40 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, studies have recorded increased blood flow in this region, which is associated with clear thinking: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.

This area is also linked to emotion regulation, allowing us to recover faster from emotions.

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