2.4 Daniel Kahneman and ‘thinking fast and slow’
Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winning psychologist who has undertaken extensive research on human judgement and decision making.
Kahneman makes a distinction between effortless intuition and deliberate reasoning. He has found that what he calls our "System 1"—our automatic, intuitive mind—usually lets us navigate the world easily and successfully. But, when unchecked by "System 2"—our controlled, deliberative, analytical mind—System 1 also leads us to make regular, predictable errors in judgment.
System 1 is in charge of almost everything we do. Most of everything we do is skilled, and skilled activities are largely carried out effortlessly and automatically. That even includes routine conversation; it's very low effort. System 2 is slow and clunky but capable of performing complicated actions that System 1 cannot carry out.
Please answer the following questions in the box below::
2 + 2 =
17 x 24 =
2 + 2 = 4
17 x 24 = 408
When I ask you 2 plus 2, for most people a number comes to mind. That is System 1 working. You didn't have to compute it, you didn't have to do anything deliberate, it just popped out of your associative memory.
However, if I ask 17 times 24, for most people no number comes to mind—you'd have to compute it (408). And if you computed it, you'd be investing effort. Your pupils would get larger, your heart rate would accelerate, and you'd be working. That's System 2.
System 1 is useful because it is quick, often effortless and helps us to make sense and navigate a rapidly changing environment. But, System 1 can sometimes lead us astray when it's unchecked by System 2.
Try and answer the following question as quickly as possible:
A bat and a ball cost £1.10 in total. The bat costs £1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
Almost everyone reports an initial tendency to answer “10p” because the sum £1.10 separates naturally into £1 and 10p. [The answer is 5p.]
The problem, Kahneman says, is that System 1 is a storyteller. It tells the best stories that it can from the information available, even when the information is sparse or unreliable. We use the information we have as if it is the only information. We don't spend much time saying, "Well, there is much we don't know." We make do with what we do know. So if what we know is based on stereotypes, the views of our parents, authority figures and peers, then that is what our system one will use. System one is where our unconscious biases reside.
We can use system 2 to help us to control system 1 and so to avoid behaving in a way that is in accordance with unconscious bias. But because System 2 takes effort, it is capable of being distracted by other demands. So if we are stressed or anxious, it is more difficult to access System 2.
Assign the following words to either system 1 or system 2 thinking:
|Word:||System 1||System 2|
System 1: implicit, automatic, low effort, large capacity, rapid, default process.
System 2: explicit, controlled, high effort, inhibitory, small capacity, slow.
What might this mean for us in relation to STEM and gender? Note down your thoughts in your learning log.