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Thinking, fast & slow

Kirjoittanut: Johanna Sauvula - tiimistä Eventa.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

Daniel Kahneman
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 4 minuuttia.

This essay has been written as a part of our Professional English for BBA Studies -course.


Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D. in psychology, is a Nobel Prize winner and an author of the international bestseller book ”Thinking, fast and slow”. Kahneman explains that there are two systems when it comes to considering judgement and choice. In Thinking, fast and slow he analyses those two modes of thought:
– “System one” fast, instinctive and emotional
– “System two” slower, more deliberative, and more logical.

If a an apple and a banana costs 1,10€ in total and the banana costs 1€ more than the apple, how much each of them costs? Most of the people would answer intuitively that the banana costs 1 € and the apple 0,10 €. The right answer is that the banana cost 1,05 € and the apple 0,05 €. An answer that is wrong but feels right is created by the system one. To find out the right answer it is needed to use system two.


System one

Kahneman (2011) considers that system one operates almost automatically or instinctively. System one is subconscious, naive and believes to understand the whole world perfeclty based on the things seen, heard and experienced. Thinking needs almost no effort from the person and there is no feeling of control. This system one of thinking is incredibly influential as it influences all of regular judgements and choices.

System one is used for exsample when detected that one object is more distant than another, oriented to the source of a sudden sound, answered to 2+2=?, read words on large billboards or driven a car on an empty road. (Kahneman, 2011)

When seen that trees are swinging always when it is windy, system one would make and assumption that as trees are swinging the weather must be windy even though the swinging was caused by the earthquaqe.


System two

System two is slower, it involves thinking that is complex and more mentally challenging. System two takes concentration and agency of the person to process the thoughts. System two is the conscious mind that makes choices, decisions and has beliefs and reasons. (Kahneman, 2011.)

Kahneman (2011) tells that system two is used for exsample when focused attention on the magician in the circus, focused on the voice of particular person in a crowded and noicy room, searched memory to identify a surprising sound, maintained a faster walking speed than is natural for you, told someone your phone number or compared two computers for overall value.

System two is responsible to evaluate the assumptions and illusions that are created by the system one. Unfortunately system two involves active thinking and is lazy. That is a one reason why wrong believes and assumptions are often thought to be right even without questioning the assumptions. (Kahneman, 2011.)


Two systems together


Kahneman (2011) explanes that exsamples of two different systems are easy to recognice by the exsamples, but most of the times these systems work together. In a word full of thousands of stimuli both systems and co-operation between those two systems is mandtory for the brain and has been mandatory for human race to survive. It is necessary for the brains to work on an auto pilot from time to time as thinking is a hard work.

System one works effortlesly whithout the need to activate the more capacity demanding system two that is getting exhausted by the use. That is why most of the people are relying on the system one and live without questoning anything. As a result of that, obscure images, emotions and propensities can transfer into misinterprent beliefs, attitudes and motives.

As being a rapid, almost automatical, system one is the dominant one. As system one runs into problems where the situation will need for more detailed processing from time to time, system two will associate with for support. System two is designed to monitor the actions and thoughts promoted by system one. System two will also control these actions by encouraging, supressing or modifying behaviours. (Kahneman, 2011.)



In Thinking, fast and slow Kahneman (2011) presents that surrounding and available information affects on the level of system one to the behaviour and attitudes on unconsciously and non logical way. In a test where a roulet was set to give either number 10 or 65, hundreds of people were asked to spin the roulette, write down their number and to answer the question how many percents of the United Nations members are from Africa. An average answer to the people who got 10 as a result from the roulet was that 25% of the members of UN were from Africa. An awerage answer to the people who got 65 as a result from the roulet was 45%. The number from the roulet affectect to the estimatated quantity of the members even when the thought is absurd. This effect called anchoring recurs always when tried to create an understanding of quantity of something unfamiliar. Information that is interpreted to reference act as a anchor from which is not wanted to diverged too far away even if the reference is arbitrary.

System one is creating a cause-effect relationships and associations of everything and that is how system one is affecting to the thinking and behaviour.

An another fault of system one based on Kahneman (2011) is the creation of stories and thruths based only to the information that is available. System one does not recognice the things it has not seen, heard or experienced so system one ignores all the facts that are not available on that very moment. For exsample a person who is following the mainstream media is more likely to be afraid of the terrorism, diseases or flight accidents when traveling to abroad as those are the subjects shown on news. The person is creating the fears and assumptions based on the information person is passively receiving even though it is more likely to get killed in a car accident while driving to the airport from home.

Kahneman (2011) acknowledges that it is difficult to avoid biases. He also emphasises that it is possible to train the system two to operate more fluently. Naive thoughts can be programmed to work as an alarm to consiciously activate the system two. It is important in order to remove the risk of mistakes.

”The ease with which instances come to mind is a System 1 heuristic, which is replaced by a focus on content when System 2 is more engaged. Multiple lines of evidence converge on the conclusion that people who let themselves be guided by System 1 are more strongly susceptible to availability biases than others who are in a state of higher vigilance.” (Kahneman, 2011.)

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