Monitor on Psychology - February 2012 - (Page 24)

Questionnaire ‘A machine for jumping to conclusions’ Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s new book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” examines how our ability to think quickly and intuitively can sometimes lead us astray — in predictable ways. By lEA WiNERMAN Monitor staff o Daniel Kahneman, PhD, the human mind is a marvel, but a fallible one. Kahneman, who is best known as the only psychologist to win a Nobel Prize (in economics), has spent decades investigating people’s automatic thought processes. 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. Considering those errors in the 1970s led Kahneman and his longtime collaborator Amos Tversky, PhD, who died in 1996, to develop the Nobelprize-winning theory that explains why human beings often make economic decisions that aren’t perfectly rational — in contrast to what economists had long believed. Kahneman spoke to the Monitor about his new book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” which sums up his life’s research on human judgments, decision-making and, most recently, happiness. Can you give an example of how System 1 and System 2 work? I should begin by saying that I don’t believe they are really systems. They are expository fictions, and I write the book 24 t as a psychodrama between two fictitious characters. 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. So System 1 is a marvel, with some flaws. System 2 is slow and clunky but capable of performing complicated actions that System 1 cannot carry out. For example, if I say 2 plus 2, a number comes to your 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. If I say 17 times 24, no number comes to your mind — you’d have to compute it. 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. What is the significance of these two systems? What are the implications for psychologists and laypeople? They’re really two modes of thinking. And everybody recognizes the difference between thoughts that come to mind automatically and thoughts that you need to produce. That is the distinction. The main point that I make is that System 1 is very efficient and highly skilled, and in general it’s monitored by System 2. But in general we’re experts at what we’re doing, we do most of what we do well, so System 2 mostly endorses and generates actions from System 1. System 2 in part is a mechanism for second-guessing or controlling yourself. But most of the time, we don’t have to do much of that. But, System 1 can sometimes lead us astray when it’s unchecked by System 2. For example, you write about a concept called “WySiATi” — What you See is All There is. What does that mean, and how does it relate to System 1 and System 2? 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. And that makes stories that are based on very different qualities of evidence equally compelling. Our measure of how “good” a story is — how confident we are in its accuracy — is not an evaluation of the reliability of the evidence and its quality, it’s a measure of the coherence of the story. People are designed to tell the best story possible. So WYSIATI means that 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. And that concept is very central to the functioning of our mind. There is a very nice example of this, and it’s actually the thing that impressed M o n i t o r o n p s y c h o l o g y • F e b ru a ry 2 0 1 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Monitor on Psychology - February 2012

Monitor on Psychology - February 2012
President’s column
From the CEO
APA files two briefs in support of same-sex couples
New registry seeks to understand addiction recovery through ‘crowdsourcing’
APA launches a database of tests and measures
Watch for new member benefit: “APA Access”
Apply now for APA’s Advanced Training Institutes
PsycTHERAPY, APA’s new database, brings therapy demos to life
In Brief
APA scientists help guide tobacco regulation
A-mazing research
‘A machine for jumping to conclusions’
Judicial Notebook
Random Sample
Righting the imbalance
The beginnings of mental illness
Science Directions
Improving disorder classification, worldwide
Protesting proposed changes to the DSM
Interventions for at-risk students
Harnessing the wisdom of the ages
Anti-bullying efforts ramp up
Hostile hallways
R U friends 4 real?
Support for teachers
Speaking of Education
Record keeping for practitioners
Going green
At the intersection of law and psychology
Division Spotlight
Grants help solve society’s problems

Monitor on Psychology - February 2012