FAST AND SLOW
Geoffrey W. Sutton
Kahneman’s analysis of thinking in Thinking, Fast and Slow, is close to a metatheory of human nature. In highly readable prose he explains how numerous psychological experiments document the interplay of two ways human brains process and act upon the myriad of stimuli encountered in daily life. Many reviews have extolled the brilliance of the book and its Nobel-prize winning author. My skeptical bias against excessive public endorsements was on high alert until I began to read. My copy has so many notes that it was hard to condense them for this review. I must confess, this was one of the best psychology books I have ever read.
The second concept in the title is slow thinking. Slow thinking is that arduous process most of humanity avoids most of each day. It is the thinking that requires cognitive effort to focus carefully on a set of stimuli whilst ignoring other internal and external distractions so we can search memory and employ other resources to solve a problem. Sometimes the problems are not incredibly difficulty but the answers do not quickly arise in our consciousness like recalling our telephone number or slowing down and scanning more carefully when guiding our car into a narrow parking slot. The components of the thinking process appear to be organized into these two major systems, simply labeled System I and System II.
System I is automatic and works well enough for most daily activities. People cannot be vigilant all day, Kahneman points out. System II seems to engage as needed to address more complex situations. The effort required by System II does not come easy and seems to slow down not just thought, but the entire person as we might interrupt a walk to formulate an answer to an unusual question. This story of thinking unfolds in 38 chapters organizing diverse dimensions of cognition into five parts: Two Systems, Heuristics and Biases, Overconfidence, Choices, and Two Selves.
It is easy to see how Kahneman’s work would be of interest to academicians and researchers. But the implications for psychotherapists are far reaching and illustrate how hard it is to interrupt error-prone cognitive-behavioral patterns to apply some new cognitive frame or employ a new behavioral response. Rituals and responses often labeled as spiritual or religious appear to be System I responses except when interrupted by troubling experiences that place our scripts on pause an induce a search for resources. An awareness of biases and the role of heuristics and overconfidence is relevant to clinicians, clinical supervisors, consultants, and clients. There’s a time for System I and a time for System II.
Sutton, G. W. (2012). [Review of the book Thinking: Fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman]. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 31, 373-375. ResearchGate Link Academia Link