The people who make the most difference to the lives of other people are very optimistic. They have an illusion of control.— Daniel Kahneman
In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic sciences, explains the two systems that drive the way we think.
Our thinking depends on neural connections, as Peter Bevelin states in Seeking Wisdom, so what we think and feel depends on chemical reactions. Daniel Kahneman frames the way we think into two different systems.
The characters of the story:
Fast system—System 1, operates automatically and cannot be turned off at will, errors of intuitive thought are often difficult to prevent.e.g. 2+2=?
Biases cannot always be avoided, because System 2—Slow System may have no clue to the error. Even when cues to likely error are available, errors can be prevented only by the enhanced monitoring and effortful activity of System 2.e.g.17×24=?
As a way to live your life, however, continuous vigilance is not necessarily good, and it is certainly impractical. Constantly questioning our own thinking would be impossible tedious, and system 2 is much too slow and inefficient to serve as a substitute for system 1 in making routine decisions. The best we can do is a compromise: learn to recognize situations in which mistakes are likely and try harder to avoid significant mistakes when the stakes are high.
A machine for jumping to conclusions:
The great comedian Danny Kaye had a line that has stayed with me since my adolescence. Speaking of a woman he dislikes, he says, ‘Her favorite position is beside herself, and her favorite sport is jumping to conclusions.’
Jumping to conclusions is efficient if the conclusions are likely to be correct and the costs of an occasional mistake acceptable, and if the jump saves much time and effort. Jumping to conclusion is risky when the situation is unfamiliar, the stakes are high, and there is no time to collect more information. These are the circumstances in which intuitive errors are probable, which may be prevented by a deliberate intervention of System 2.
How judgments happen?
There is no limit to the number of questions you can answer, whether they are questions someone else asks or questions you ask yourself. Nor is there a limit to the number of attributes you can evaluate. You are capable of counting the number of capital letters on this page, comparing the height of the windows of your house to the one across the street, and assessing the political prospects of your senator on a scale from excellent to disastrous. The questions are addressed to System 2, which will direct attention and search memory to find the answers.
The illusion of understanding:
Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of the world. The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity, and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen. Any recent salient event is a candidate to become the kernel of a causual narrative.
The sense-making machinery of System 1 makes us see the world as more tidy, simple, predictable, and coherent than it really is. The illusion that one has understood the past feeds the further illusion that one can predict and control the future. These illusions are comforting. They reduce the anxiety that we would experience if we allowed ourselves to fully acknowledge the uncertainties of existence.
Life as a story:
A story is about significant events and memorable moments, not about time passing. Duration neglect is normal in a story, and the ending often defines its character. The same core features appear in the rules of narratives and in the memories of colonoscopies, vacations, and films. This is how the remembering self works: it composes stories and keeps them for future reference.
Most important, of course, we all care intensely for the narrative of our own life and very much want it to be a good story, with a decent hero.
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