Thinking, Fast And Slow

obyvatel

The Living Force
I have been recently reading "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. In the book (I have only read a few chapters so far) the author has developed ideas put forward in the "Adaptive Unconscious". Here are some snippets that I have gathered so far.

DK describes mental life by the metaphor of two agents called System1 and System2. System1 is the adaptive unconscious which produces fast thinking and System2 is conscious and produces slow, deliberate thinking. By his definition
[quote author=Thinking, Fast and Slow]
System1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.
System2 allocates attention to the effortfull mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration.
.....................
In rough order of complexity, here are some examples of the automatic activities that are attributed to System1
* Detect that one object is more distant than another
* Orient to the source of a sudden sound
* Complete the phrase "bread and ...."
* Make a "disgust face" when shown a horrible picture
* Detect hostility in a voice
* Answer to 2+2=?
* Read words on large billboards
* Drive a car on an empty road
* Find a strong move in chess (if you are a chess master)
* Understand simple sentences
* Recognize that a "meek and tidy soul with a passion for detail" resembles an occupational stereotype
..........
Some skills, such as finding strong chess moves, are acquired only by specialized experts. Others are widely shared. Detecting the similarity of a personality sketch to an occupational stereotype requires broad knowledge of the language and the culture, which most of us possess. The knowledge is stored in memory and accessed without intention and without effort.
Several of the mental actions in the list are completely involuntary. You cannot refrain from understanding simple sentences in your own language or from orienting to a loud unexpected sound, nor can you prevent yourself from knowing that 2+2=4 or from thinking of Paris when the capital of France is mentioned. Other activities, like chewing, are susceptible to voluntary control but normally run on automatic pilot. The control of attention is shared by the two systems. Orienting to a loud sound is normally an involuntary operation of System1, which immediately mobilizes the voluntary attention of System2. You may be able to resist turning toward the source of a loud and offensive comment at a crowded party, but even if your head does not move, your attention is initially directed to it, at least for a while. However, attention can be moved away from an unwanted focus, primarily by focusing intently on another target.

The highly diverse operations of System2 have one feature in common: they require attention and are disrupted when attention is drawn away. Here are some examples:
* Brace for the starter gun in a race
* Focus attention on the clowns in the circus
* Focus on the voice of a particular person in a crowded and noisy room
* Look for a woman with white hair
* Search memory to identify a surprising sound
* Maintain a faster walking speed than is natural for you
* Monitor the appropriateness of your behavior in a social situation
* Count the occurrences of the letter a in a page of text.
* Tell someone your phone number
* Park in a narrow space (for most people except garage attendants)
* Compare two washing machines for overall value
* Fill out a tax form
* Check the validity of a complex logical argument
In all these situations you must pay attention, and you will perform less well or not at all, if you are not ready or if your attention is directed inappropriately.
[/quote]

Usually, System1 runs automatically and System2 is in a comfortable low-effort mode.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
System1 continuously generates suggestions for System2: impressions, intuitions, intentions and feelings. If endorsed by System2, impressions and intuitions turn into beliefs, and impulses turn into voluntary actions. When all goes smoothly, which is most of the time, System2 adopts the suggestions of System1 with little or no modification. You generally believe your impressions and act on your desires, and that is fine - usually.
When System1 runs into difficulty, it calls on System2 to support more detailed and specific processing that may solve the problem of the moment. System2 is mobilized when a question arises for which System1 does not offer an answer, as probably happened to you when you encountered the multiplication problem 17X24. You can also feel a surge of conscious attention when you are surprised. System2 is activated when an event is detected that violates the model of the world that System1 maintains.
..............................
The defining feature of System2, is that its operations are effortful, and one of its main characteristics is laziness, a reluctance to invest more effort than is strictly necessary. As a consequence, the thoughts and actions that System2 believes it has chosen are often guided by the figure at the center of the story, System1.
[/quote]

The above dynamics is well covered by Gurdjieff. He had mentioned the laziness of the intellectual center

[quote author=ISOTM]
The inclination to daydream is due partly to the laziness of the thinking center, that is, its attempts to avoid the efforts connected with work directed towards a definite aim and going in a definite direction.....
[/quote]

and the necessity of shocks (which surprise us) to help us wake up.

System1 offers ready answers to problems. This reminded me of G's description of the formatory apparatus as a sort of secretary.

Consider the simple puzzle
If a ball and bat together cost $1.10 and the bat costs $1 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

You can note the first answer that springs to your mind and then check the answer later to see if it is correct. DK states that more than 50% of university students at ivy league schools like Harvard, MIT and Princeton gave the intuitive and incorrect answer (10 cents) . At less selective universities, "the rate of demonstratable failure to check was in excess of 80%". The students were obviously quite capable of figuring out this simple problem - but the author notes that " this is our first encounter with the observation that many people are overconfident, prone to place too much faith in their intuitions".

A couple of others
* If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long will it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
a) 100 minutes
b) 5 minutes

* In a lake there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
a) 24 days
b) 47 days

And such errors are not limited to simple puzzles either. DK sites the example of an executive at a large financial firm who told him that he had invested tens of millions of dollars in the stock of Ford Motor Company. When asked about how he made the decision, he replied that he had recently attended an automobile show and had been impressed. "Boy, do they know how to make a car!" was his explanation.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
When the question is difficult and a skilled solution is not available, intuition still has a shot: an answer can come to mind quickly - but it is not an answer to the original question. The question that the executive faced (should I invest in Ford stock?) was difficult, but the answer to an easier and related question (do I like Ford cars?) came readily to his mind and determined his choice. This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.
[/quote]

The author talks about visual illusions like the Muller-Lyer illusion - another example of a System1 answer being wrong. He says that even after making the measurement and finding out that the lines are equal, we still "see" the lines as not being equal. System1 input cannot be shut down but can be overridden. In this context, he talks about a different illusion - the illusion of thought or cognitive illusions. Here is an interesting tidbit

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
As a graduate student, I attended some courses on the art and science of psychotherapy. During one of these lectures, our teacher imparted a morsel of clinical wisdom. This is what he told us : "You will from time to time meet a patient who shares a disturbing tale of multiple mistakes in his previous treatment. He has been seen by several clinicians, and all failed him. The patient can lucidly describe how his therapists misunderstood him, but he has quickly perceived that you are different. You share the same feeling, are convinced that you understand him, and will be able to help." At this point my teacher raised his voice as he said, "Do not even think of taking on this patient! Throw him out of the office! He is most likely a psychopath and you will not be able to help him."
Many years later I learned that the teacher had warned us against psychopathic charm, and the leading authority in the study of psychopathy confirmed that the teacher's advice was sound. The analogy to the Muller-Lyer illusion is close. What we were being taught was not how to feel about that patient. Our teacher took it for granted that the sympathy we would feel for the patient would not be under our control; it would arise from System1. Furthermore, we were not being taught to be generally suspicious of our feelings about patients. We were told that a strong attraction to a patient with a repeated history of failed treatment is a danger sign - like the fins on the parallel lines. It is an illusion - a cognitive illusion - and I (System2) was taught how to recognize it and advised not to believe it or act on it.

The question that is most often asked about cognitive illusions is whether they can be overcome. The message of these examples are not encouraging. Because System1 operates automatically and cannot be turned off at will, errors of intuitive thought are often difficult to prevent. Biases cannot always be avoided, because System2 may have no clue to the error. Even when cues to likely errors are available, errors can be prevented only by the enhanced monitoring and effortful activity of System2. As a way to live our lives however, continuous vigilance is not necessarily good, and it is certainly impractical. Constantly questioning our own thinking would be impossibly tedious, and System2 is much too slow and inefficient to serve as a substitute for System1 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. The premise of this book is that it is easier to recognize other people's mistakes than our own.
[/quote]
which underscores the value of networking. Also relevant is the capability of System2 to adopt "task sets" that is it can program memory to obey an instruction that overrides habitual responses.

In a related context, it is interesting to note what the author has to say regarding positive emotions and "cognitive ease". Cognitive ease is the state where System2 is not over-burdened. There are interesting experiments which are cited which demonstrate physiological correlates accompanying cognitive strain (dilated pupils is an example). Cognitive ease is characterized by a comfortable feeling of familiarity and/or feeling good and effortless (referred to as the "flow"). It is triggered by repeated experiences (habits again), good moods, primed ideas etc.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
When you are in a state of cognitive ease, you are probably in a good mood, like what you see, believe what you hear, trust your intuitions, and feel that the current situation is comfortably familiar. You are also likely to be relatively casual and superficial in your thinking. When you feel strained, you are more likely to be vigilant and suspicious, invest more effort in what you are doing, feel less comfortable, and make fewer errors, but you are also less intuitive and creative than usual.
..............
The impression of familiarity is produced by System1, and System2 relies on that impression for a true/false judgment.
The lesson .. is that predictable illusions inevitably occur if a judgment is based on an impression of cognitive ease or strain. Anything that makes it easier for the associative machine to run smoothly will also bias beliefs. A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth . Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact.
....................
Good mood, intuition, creativity, gullibility and increased reliance on System1 form a cluster. At the other pole, sadness, vigilance, suspicion, an analytic approach, and increased effort also go together. A happy mood loosens the control of System2 over performance: people become more intuitive and more creative but also less vigilant and more prone to logical errors.
[/quote]

Such connections make biological sense since familiarity signals that the environment is safe and danger is low so that mood is improved and one lets the guard down so to speak. Personally, I have seen the truth of the above statements borne out in many instances of life experience.
Interestingly, James Pennebaker, the social psychologist involved with the study of the effect of writing exercizes on trauma referenced by Timothy Wilson in "Redirect" had this to report from computerized analysis of people's writings.

[quote author=Pennebaker in "The Secret Life Of Pronouns"]
When events happen to us that cause us to feel sad or angry, we tend to try to understand why they occurred. We use cognitive words that reflect causal thinking and self-reflection. Not true for positive emotions such as pride and love. When happy and content, most of us are satisfied to let the joy wash over us without introspection. In other words, negative feelings make us thoughtful; positive emotions make us blissfully stupid.
[/quote]

As Wilson stated in "Adaptive Unconscious", feeling good and being accurate are often at odds with each other.

I will try to post more interesting excerpts from "Thinking, Fast And Slow" as I go along.
 

Iron

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
I wonder if this applies all the time to all people.
There were times in my life that when I was under strain, the opposite happened with me, lots of mundane errors. And when I am relaxed the tasks flow more easily.
I wonder if this is valid only for mental tasks?
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Iron said:
I wonder if this applies all the time to all people.
Well, personally I'm wondering about the people Pennebaker has been studying. This:

Re: "In other words, negative feelings make us thoughtful; positive emotions make us blissfully stupid."

...sounds like he's talking about someone who is "high".

I'm also beginning to be suspicious of Wilson. "...feeling good and being accurate are often at odds with each other" doesn't really fit my experience. I also dislike the indiscriminate use of the words "consciousness" and "unconsciousness" when "awareness" and "subliminal awareness" seems more appropriate and a better pointer to the liminal threshold.

I also think he's got "rigid" and "flexible" backwards where he assigns attributes to "adaptive unconsciousness" and "consciousness" respectively. To me, "rigid" is an attribute of "frames" which is an aspect of awareness or cognition first, and before said frames sink into a subliminal realm to serve as "belief systems" and "unquestioned assumptions", etc. And "flexible" seems more a quality of "fluidity" which is an aspect of emotions, the feeling center, etc. Anyway, who asked me anything, and what do I know?
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Iron said:
I wonder if this applies all the time to all people.
There were times in my life that when I was under strain, the opposite happened with me, lots of mundane errors. And when I am relaxed the tasks flow more easily.
I wonder if this is valid only for mental tasks?
From my understanding, social psychology experiments deal with statistical observations - so findings are reflective of general trends. As far as the general effect of strain goes, a moderate amount of arousal is usually found to be conducive to better performance. Too much strain and the system overloads and performance goes down. Similarly, too relaxed a state in general is not found to be conducive for optimal performance. The optimal arousal level varies from person to person.

Also, the study reports showed that the state of cognitive ease was accompanied by higher levels of intuition and creativity but lower critical thinking - that is better System1 performance and lower System2 performance. Tasks demanding cognitive strain - like drawing a card with a 4 digit number, waiting for 2 seconds, then adding 1 (or 3 for a higher level of challenge) to each digit and reporting the result and then going over to the next card - usually demand a higher level of arousal where the lazy System2 needs to wake up and work. However, when intuitive pattern matching type tests (where System1 performance is being measured) were administered after putting subjects in a good mood or a bad mood, subjects with an induced good mood outperformed those with bad moods consistently.

Buddy said:
Well, personally I'm wondering about the people Pennebaker has been studying. This:

Re: "In other words, negative feelings make us thoughtful; positive emotions make us blissfully stupid."

...sounds like he's talking about someone who is "high".
Pennebaker used the writings of students reporting strong experiences - positive or negative . Strong positive experiences do generate a "high". Artificial drugs inducing a "high" need to bind to receptors already present in the body. Strong positive experiences generate the body's own feel-good chemicals like endorphins and morphine analogues. Candace Pert stated that the concentration of these receptors are found in greatest abundance in the frontal cortex. So an intoxicated System2 may not be far from reality in this context.

[quote author=Bud]
I'm also beginning to be suspicious of Wilson. "...feeling good and being accurate are often at odds with each other" doesn't really fit my experience.
[/quote]

Wilson had stated that
[quote author=Adaptive Unconscious]
What makes us feel good depends on our culture and our personalities and our level of self esteem, but the desire to feel good, and the ability to meet this desire with nonconscious thought, are probably universal.
................
The conflict between the need to be accurate and the desire to feel good about ourselves is one of the major battlegrounds of the self, and how this battle is waged and how it is won are central determinants of who we are and how we feel about ourselves.
[/quote]

So it is the desire to feel good which can come in the way of being accurate. We often tend to accept messages or go with explanations which make us feel good and comfortable rather than facing the uncomfortable reality. Gurdjieff described this with the analogy of buffers in the context of the Work.

[quote author=ISOTM]
" 'Buffer' is a term which requires special explanation. We know what buffers on railway carriages are. They are the contrivances which lessen the shock when carriages or trucks strike one another. If there were no buffers the shock of one carriage against another would be very unpleasant and dangerous. Buffers soften the results of these shocks and render them unnoticeable and imperceptible.

"Exactly the same appliances are to be found within man. They are created, not by nature but by man himself, although involuntarily. The cause of their appearance is the existence in man of many contradictions; contradictions of opinions, feelings, sympathies, words, and actions. If a man throughout the whole of his life were to feel all the contradictions that are within him he could not live and act as calmly as he lives and acts now. He would have constant friction, constant unrest. We fail to see how contradictory and hostile the different I's of our personality are to one another. If a man were to feel all these contradictions he would feel what he really is. He would feel that he is mad. It is not pleasant to anyone to feel that he is mad. Moreover, a thought such as this deprives a man of self-confidence, weakens his energy, deprives him of 'self-respect.' Somehow or other he must master this thought or banish it. He must either destroy contradictions or cease to see and to feel them. A man cannot destroy contradictions. But if 'buffers' are created in him he can cease to feel them and he will not feel the impact from the clash of contradictory views, contradictory emotions, contradictory words.
[/quote]
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I'm also beginning to be suspicious of Wilson. "... feeling good and being
accurate are often at odds with each other" doesn't really fit my experience.
Maybe what Wilson is trying to get at (or maybe this is my trying to "see the best" in what he said) is that "accuracy" means having system two's careful deliberation, instead of resorting to system one's ad hoc shorthand solutions, which in his own words substitute the actual problem for a simpler problem. Perhaps he equates "happiness" with low arousal and being able to efficiently deligate tasks to system one, thereby convincing the organism that all is right and handled in the world. Buffers in a nutshell :p

From my understanding, social psychology
experiments deal with statistical observations -
so findings are reflective of general trends. As
far as the general effect of strain goes, a
moderate amount of arousal is usually found to
be conducive to better performance. Too much
strain and the system overloads and
performance goes down. Similarly, too relaxed
a state in general is not found to be conducive
for optimal performance. The optimal arousal
level varies from person to person.
In the arousal experiments, did Wilson say how well the neutral control group performed alongside the grumpy and cheerful group?
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Confirmation Bias and the Halo Effect


Presumably we are aware of our automatic tendency to "fill in the gaps" - be it in the context of reading words or in other areas of life. This tendency is due to the operation of System1.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
When uncertain, System1 bets on an answer, and the bets are guided by experience. The rules of betting are intelligent: recent events and the current context have the most weight in determining an interpretation. When no recent event comes to mind, more distant memories govern.
[/quote]

Priming experiments prove this point. Take so_p. If we have been primed by exposure to themes relating to cleanliness (or if cleanliness was on our minds for some other reason) we are more likely to read the above word as "soap". If food instead of cleanliness was the theme, we would read the word as "soup".In general, it is possible that when we try to make sense of ambiguity, we are often unaware of the reason why we favor one interpretation over the other.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
System1 does not keep track of alternatives it rejects, or even of the fact that there were alternatives. Conscious doubt is not in the repertoire of System1; it requires maintaining incompatible interpretations in mind at the same time, which demands mental effort. Uncertainty and doubt are the domain of System2.
[/quote]

There is a reference to a paper by Daniel Gilbert called "How Mental Systems Believe" ( original paper link ).

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
Gilbert proposed that understanding a statement must begin with an attempt to believe it; you must first know what the idea would mean if it were true. Only then can you decide whether or not to unbelieve it. The initial attempt to believe is an automatic operation of System1, which involves the construction of the best possible interpretation of the situation. Even a nonsensical statement, Gilbert argues, will evoke initial belief. Try his example: "whitefish eat candy". You probably were aware of vague impressions of fish and candy as an automatic process of associative memory searched for links between the two ideas that would make sense of the nonsense.

Gilbert sees unbelieving as an operation of System2 , and he reported an elegant experiment to make his point. The participants saw nonsensical assertions, such as "a dinca is a flame" followed after a few seconds by a single word, "true" or "false". They were later tested for their memory of which sentences had been labeled "true". In one condition of the experiment, the subjects were required to hold digits in memory during the task. The disruption (through loading) of System2 had a selective effect: it made it difficult for people to "unbelieve" false sentences. In a later test of memory, the depleted participants ended up thinking that many of the false sentences were true. The moral is significant: when System2 is otherwise engaged, we will believe almost anything. System1 is gullible and biased to believe, System2 is in charge of doubting and unbelieving, but System2 is sometimes busy, and often lazy.
[/quote]

I guess such information has been known to magicians (benign or the "evil" variety)) for a long time and used to entertain or enslave the masses.

Exaggerated Emotional Coherence or the Halo Effect

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
If you like the president's politics, you probably like his voice and his appearance as well. The tendency to like (or dislike) everything about a person - including things you have not observed - is known as the halo effect. The term has been in use in psychology for a century, but it has not come into wide use in everyday language. This is a pity, because the halo effect is a good name for a common bias that plays a large role in shaping our view of people and situations. It is one of the ways the representation of the world that System1 generates which is simpler and more coherent than the real thing.
.............
In an enduring classic of psychology, Solomon Asch presented descriptions of two people and asked for comments on their personality. What do you think of Alan and Ben?

Alan: intelligent-industrious-impulsive-stubborn-envious
Ben: envious-stubborn-critical-impulsive-industrious-intelligent

If you are like most of us, you viewed Alan much more favorably than Ben. The initial traits in the list change the very meaning of the traits that appear later. The stubbornness of an intelligent person is seen as likely to be justified and may actually evoke respect, but intelligence in an envious and stubborn person makes him more dangerous. The halo effect is also an example of suppressed ambiguity; the adjective stubborn is ambiguous and will be interpreted in a way that makes it coherent with the context.

There have been many variations on this research theme. Participants in one study first considered the first three adjectives that describe Alan; then they considered the last three, which belonged, they were told to another person. When they had imagined the two individuals, the participants were asked if it was plausible for all six adjectives to describe the same person, and most of them thought it was impossible.
[/quote]

DK goes on to describe a personal anecdote regarding grading papers. He initially followed the approach of taking a student's test booklet and graded him/her sequentially on all the essays before moving on to the next student. He noticed eventually that his evaluations of essays in each booklet was strikingly homogeneous.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
I began to suspect that my grading exhibited a halo effect, and that the first question I scored had a disproportionate effect on the overall grade. The mechanism was simple: if I had given a high score to the first essay, I gave the student the benefit of doubt whenever I encountered a vague or ambiguous statement later on. This seemed reasonable. Surely a student who had done so well on the first essay would not make a foolish mistake in the second one! But there was a serious problem with my way of doing things. If a student had written two essays, one strong and one weak, I would end up with different final grades depending on which essay I read first.
.................
I adopted a new procedure. Instead of reading the booklets in sequence, I read and scored all the students' answers to the first question, then went on to the next one. I made sure to write all the scores on the inside back page of the booklet so that I would not be biased when I read the second essay. Soon after switching to the new method, I made a disconcerting observation: my confidence in my grading was now much lower than it had been. The reason was that I frequently experienced a discomfort that was new to me. When I was disappointed with a student's second essay and went to the back page of the booklet to enter a poor grade, I occasionally discovered that I had given a top grade to the same student's first essay. I also noticed that I was tempted to reduce the discrepancy by changing the grade that I had not yet written down, and found it hard to follow the simple rule of never yielding to that temptation. My grades for the essays of a single student often varied over a considerable range. The lack of coherence left me uncertain and frustrated.

I was now less happy with and less confident in my grades than I had been earlier, but I recognized that this was a good sign, an indication that the new procedure was superior. The consistency I had enjoyed earlier was spurious; it produced a feeling of cognitive ease, and my System2 was happy to lazily accept the final grade. By allowing myself to be strongly influenced by the first question in evaluating subsequent ones, I spared myself the dissonance of finding the same student doing very well on some questions and badly on others. The uncomfortable inconsistency that was revealed when I switched to the new procedure was real; it reflected both the inadequacy of a single question as a measure of what the student knew and the unreliability of my own grading.
[/quote]

So tip for test-taking students - write answers to the questions you know best first and use the halo effect to your advantage. This was the advice given to me as a student but I always took it as a method of boosting the student's confidence not considering the effect it would have on the person grading the test.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
The measure of success for System1 is the coherence of the story it manages create. The amount and quality of the data on which the story is based is largely irrelevant. When information is scarce, which is a common occurrence, System1 operates as a machine jumping to conclusions. Consider the following: "Will Mindik be a good leader? She is intelligent and strong..." An answer quickly came to your mind, and it was yes. You picked the best answer based on limited information available, but you jumped the gun. What if the next two adjectives were corrupt and cruel ?

Take note of what you did not do as you briefly thought of Mindik as a leader. You did not start by asking, " What would I need to know before I formed an opinion about the quality of someone's leadership?" System1 got to work on its own from the first adjective: intelligence is good, intelligence and strong is very good. This is the best story that can be constructed from two adjectives, and System1 delivered it with great cognitive ease. The story will be revised if new information comes in (such as Mindik is corrupt), but there is no waiting and no subjective discomfort. And there also remains a bias favoring the first impression.

The combination of a coherence-seeking System1 with a lazy System2 implies that System2 will endorse many intuitive belief, which closely reflect the impressions generated by System1.
...............
Jumping to conclusions on the basis of limited evidence is so important to an understanding of intuitive thinking, and comes up so often in this book, that I will use a cumbersome abbreviation for it: WYSIATI, which stands for what you see is all there is. System1 is radically insensitive to both quality and the quantity of the information that gives rise to impressions and intuitions.
....
It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know in a coherent pattern.

WYSIATI facilitates the achievement of coherence and of the cognitive ease that causes us to accept a statement as true. It explains why we can think fast, and how we are able to make sense of partial information in a complex world. Much of the time, the coherent story that we put together is close enough to reality to support reasonable action. However, I will also invoke WYSIATI to help explain a long and diverse list of biases of judgment and choice.
[/quote]

One effect is overconfidence in the coherent stories that we typically tell ourselves. In the Work context, I am reminded of Mm Salzmann's comment in "The Reality Of Being" about remaining open to a question and accepting the uncertainty that it entails.

[quote author=Reality Of Being]
What we seek is the state of mind that says "I don't know". Instead of trying to know what is unconscious, we have to see the false as false.
......
I learn to listen to the unknown in myself. I do not know, and I listen, constantly refusing each known response. From moment to moment, I recognize that I do not know, and I listen. The very act of listening is a liberation.
[/quote]
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
whitecoast said:
From my understanding, social psychology
experiments deal with statistical observations -
so findings are reflective of general trends. As
far as the general effect of strain goes, a
moderate amount of arousal is usually found to
be conducive to better performance. Too much
strain and the system overloads and
performance goes down. Similarly, too relaxed
a state in general is not found to be conducive
for optimal performance. The optimal arousal
level varies from person to person.
In the arousal experiments, did Wilson say how well the neutral control group performed alongside the grumpy and cheerful group?
The general arousal vs performance results are not cited by Kahneman in his book. These results are from much older more general experiments and I stated the general conclusion in response to Iron's observation.

Kahneman's hypothesis is a little different. The state of cognitive ease and positive mood go together. Such a state is conducive to creativity and intuition. It is like the system is running on cruise control or autopilot. System2 is sleeping and System1 is doing its job. But when a task comes along that demands more concentration or focus, this state of cognitive ease is disrupted. The level of arousal is increased and if the task is of such nature that System2 is necessarily activated (like the add 1 or add 3 problem cited above) it may lead to a state of cognitive strain. In this new state, the positive mood goes away along with the cognitive ease state and the task at hand is attended to.

Take an exaggerated example. If someone is super-relaxed after a few drinks of alcohol, what do you think happens to his ability to solve a complex math problem? All that is being stated is a state of relaxation and positive mood is more conducive to creativity and intuition and less conducive towards critical thinking. Pennebaker's choice of words "blissful stupidity" is perhaps a little harsh in this context - but it could be due to the tendency to equate critical thinking with intelligence - osit.
 

Psalehesost

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
obyvatel said:
[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
System1 does not keep track of alternatives it rejects, or even of the fact that there were alternatives. Conscious doubt is not in the repertoire of System1; it requires maintaining incompatible interpretations in mind at the same time, which demands mental effort. Uncertainty and doubt are the domain of System2.
There is a reference to a paper by Daniel Gilbert called "How Mental Systems Believe" ( original paper link ).

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
Gilbert proposed that understanding a statement must begin with an attempt to believe it; you must first know what the idea would mean if it were true. Only then can you decide whether or not to unbelieve it. The initial attempt to believe is an automatic operation of System1, which involves the construction of the best possible interpretation of the situation. Even a nonsensical statement, Gilbert argues, will evoke initial belief. Try his example: "whitefish eat candy". You probably were aware of vague impressions of fish and candy as an automatic process of associative memory searched for links between the two ideas that would make sense of the nonsense.

Gilbert sees unbelieving as an operation of System2 , and he reported an elegant experiment to make his point. The participants saw nonsensical assertions, such as "a dinca is a flame" followed after a few seconds by a single word, "true" or "false". They were later tested for their memory of which sentences had been labeled "true". In one condition of the experiment, the subjects were required to hold digits in memory during the task. The disruption (through loading) of System2 had a selective effect: it made it difficult for people to "unbelieve" false sentences. In a later test of memory, the depleted participants ended up thinking that many of the false sentences were true. The moral is significant: when System2 is otherwise engaged, we will believe almost anything. System1 is gullible and biased to believe, System2 is in charge of doubting and unbelieving, but System2 is sometimes busy, and often lazy.
[/quote]

This made me think of something I'd once vaguely intuited before - that it is as if every single imagining leaves a trace, may perhaps even build upon some inner crust that may be in the way if allowed to remain and influence oneself. This would make sense if understanding anything - any statement, which would include any thought - involves part of oneself believing it. When in a dreamy state, this could then mean that these things "slip through" and remain within.

It also made me think of remarks by Gurdjieff: How reading books written in sleep (and containing, presumably, "wiseacrings") sends people to sleep - if the contents are uncritically read, beliefs would automatically form on some level and induce sleep.

Also, the formation of buffers - apart from that the reading of books is noted as something that can be part of this process, simply being surrounded by people who live, speak, act by buffers is noted to form similar buffers in person. This would make sense if people hear the statements of others - expressing their contradictions and the lies they believe in - and automatically believe in them, automatically forming the same contradictions in themselves - as well as take the contradictory behavior of others for granted and think about it uncritically, again automatically forming contradictory beliefs in themselves. Which, as these things become accepted as normal, gives rise to buffers that hide the contradictions.

OSIT, speculating above.
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Heuristics and Substitution

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
The way System1 operates is that it continuously monitors what is going on outside and inside the mind, and continuously generates assessments of various aspects of the situation without specific intention and with little or no effort. These basic assessments play an important role in intuitive judgment, because they are easily substituted for more difficult questions - this is the essential idea of the heuristics and biases approach.

Two other features of System1 also support the substitution of one judgment for another. One is the ability to translate values across dimensions, which you do in answering a question that most people find easy: "If Sam were as tall as he is intelligent, how tall would he be?"
[This feature is called intensity matching]
Finally, there is the mental shotgun. An intention of System2 to answer a specific question or evaluate a particular attribute of the situation automatically triggers other computations, including basic assessments.
[/quote]

Some basic assessments automatically carried out by System1 include asking and answering questions like "how are things going", "is everything normal", "Is there a threat or opportunity", "should I approach or avoid" - the kind of questions which are related to survival and may not always be applicable in the context of modern human life. Good mood and cognitive ease are results of assessments of safety and familiarity.

Intensity matching is an interesting property of System1. An underlying scale of intensity allows matching across diverse dimensions. The author sites studies where people adjusted the loudness of a sound to the severity of crimes.
[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
If you heard two notes, one for the crime and one for the punishment, you would feel a sense of injustice if one tone was much louder than the other.
[/quote]

Mental Shotgun implies that we often compute much more than we want or need.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
Participants in one experiment listened to a pair of words, with the instruction to press a key as quickly as possible whenever they detected that the words rhymed. The words rhyme in both these pairs:
VOTE-NOTE
VOTE-GOAT
The difference is obvious to you because you see the two pairs. VOTE and GOAT rhyme, but they are spelled differently. The participants only heard the words, but they were also influenced by the spelling. They were distinctly slower to recognize words as rhyming if their spelling was discrepant. Although the instructions required only a comparison of sounds, the participants also compared their spelling, and the mismatch on the irrelevant dimension slowed them down. An intention to answer one question evoked another, which was not only superfluous but actually detrimental to the main task.
[/quote]

Substituting Questions

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
I propose a simple account of how we generate intuitive opinions on complex matters. If a satisfactory answer to a hard question is not found quickly, System1 will find a related question that is easier and will answer it.
......
The target question is the assessment you intend to produce.
The heuristic question is the simpler question that you answered instead.
[/quote]

Substituting one question for another to solve a difficult problem is a well-known technique in scientific and engineering circles where the problem gets decomposed into smaller problems which are solved and then the answers integrated to arrive at the big solution. That approach though is a deliberate System2 approach and is different from the one being discussed in this context.
The author provides examples of target and heuristic questions:

Target Question: How much would you contribute to save an endangered species?
Heuristic Question: How much emotion do I feel when I think of dying dolphins?

Target Question: How happy are you with your life these days?
Heuristic Question: What is my mood right now?

Target Question: How should financial advisers who prey on the elderly be punished?
Heuristic Question: How much anger do I feel when I think of financial predators?

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
The mental shotgun makes it easy to generate quick answers to difficult questions without imposing much hard work on your lazy System2. ... Your feelings about dolphins and financial crooks, your current mood .. will readily come to mind. The heuristic questions provide an off-the-shelf answer to each of the difficult target questions.
Something is still missing from the story: the answers need to be fitted to the original questions. For example, my feelings about dying dolphins must be expressed in dollars. Another capability of System1, intensity matching, is available to solve that problem. Recall that both feelings and contribution dollars are intensity scales. I can feel more or less strongly about dolphins and there is a contribution that matches the intensity of my feelings. The dollar amount that will come to my mind is the matching amount.
.............................................................
In the context of attitudes, System2 is more of an apologist for the emotions of System1 rather than a critic of those emotions - an endorser rather than an enforcer. Its search for information and arguments is mostly constrained to information that is consistent with existing beliefs, not with an intention to examine them. An active, coherence-seeking System1 suggests solutions to an undemanding System2 .
[/quote]

Some thoughts

Reading this book as well as other psychology books like "Strangers To Ourselves", "You Are Not So Smart", "Redirect" have helped me refocus on the topic of how mechanical I am and how correct Gurdjieff was in stating that men are machines.

[quote author=ISOTM]
[G]:Have you ever thought about the fact that all peoples themselves are machines?"
[Ouspensky]: "Yes," I said, "from the strictly scientific point of view all people are machines governed by external influences. But the question is, can the scientific point of view be wholly accepted?"
"Scientific or not scientific is all the same to me," said G. "I want you to understand what I am saying. Look, all those people you see," he pointed along the street, "are simply machines—nothing more."
"I think I understand what you mean," I said. "And I have often thought how little there is in the world that can stand against this form of mechanization and choose its own path."
"This is just where you make your greatest mistake," said G. "You think there is something that chooses its own path, something that can stand against mechanization; you think that not everything is equally mechanical."
"Why, of course not!" I said. "Art, poetry, thought, are phenomena of quite a different order."
"Of exactly the same order," said G. "These activities are just as mechanical as everything else. Men are machines and nothing but mechanical actions can be expected of machines."
[/quote]

What is also interesting is that after the initial shock of hearing men are machines, we can lose sight of this important observation. We may read it - but once it has become familiar enough, it may not penetrate deep enough to have the desired effect. Psychologists working from an observation of human behavior under controlled circumstances have pretty much come up with the same conclusion as G but they dare not speak it aloud lest they get metaphorically "lynched by the mob". The limitations of the experiments notwithstanding, the "scientific" evidence of our mechanicalness is right there. But still the illusion of our views of the self die hard and we could use as many reminders as we can get from different sources to struggle against our state of mechanical sleep.
 

SeekinTruth

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Yes, the more we remind ourselves in as many concrete ways as possible that we are machines, the more benefit in terms of the context of the Work -- in NOT trusting our thought patterns, behaviors, etc.

I'm thinking about this System1/adaptive unconscious vs. System2/"conscious" mind. Is it that one of the problems with System1 in conjunction with a lazy System2 is that the law of three is ignored -- the third force/context is missed?
 

Iron

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
SeekinTruth said:
Yes, the more we remind ourselves in as many concrete ways as possible that we are machines, the more benefit in terms of the context of the Work -- in NOT trusting our thought patterns, behaviors, etc.

I'm thinking about this System1/adaptive unconscious vs. System2/"conscious" mind. Is it that one of the problems with System1 in conjunction with a lazy System2 is that the law of three is ignored -- the third force/context is missed?
System 1 is fast but rigid, System 2 is more precise but slow and lazy. I think that the effort to watch the functioning of the systems, to make sure System 2 is not so lazy, and to allow System 1 to work freely when its profitable to do so, in the sense of making a bridge between the two can be the third force. I can be wrong, of course.
 

Paragon

Jedi Council Member
What an interesting topic obyvatel, thanks! :)

I find that this system1 and system2 way of defining our unconscious and conscious mind in relation to the work, is very helpful! It adds another piece to the pie, which helps to confirm the true state of humanity. The predators mind IS real!

So then, getting the balance right between system1 and system2 is comparible to gurdjieff's right work of Centres?
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Paragon said:
So then, getting the balance right between system1 and system2 is comparible to gurdjieff's right work of Centres?
I would think so. Evidence indicates that we cannot think properly - yet it is the thinking part that renders itself to some amount of conscious and voluntary control and hence becomes the life-line through which we can approach the Work on the self. The thinking function is lazy and serves as the slave of the moving and emotional centers. This is partly due to a combination of a lazy and/or often ignorant thinking center. Ignorance can be remedied through acquiring knowledge - then the laziness needs to be confronted through conscious efforts which apply the knowledge gained. Through repeated practice, the knowledge acquired gets integrated into System1 and can then be invoked without as much effort. This would indicate a "growth of being" - osit.
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Remembering Self and the Experiencing Self

Here is a talk from DK discussing the remembering self and experiencing self.
_http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory.html

The experiencing self and the remembering self are not the same as System 1 and System2. DK says that the remembering self is a construction of System2 though the distinctive way it evaluates episodes from memory is strongly influenced by certain characteristics of System1 - like duration neglect and the weightage given to the peak intensity of the experience as well as how the episode ended. These "biases" lead in general to a favoring of short, intense enjoyable experiences over longer periods of moderate happiness. System1 generally represents events/experiences/impressions more as a prototype. This prototypical representation could be a peak value - like in the experienced pain experiment. System2 can work out the "integral" or the "area under the curve" in the pain experiment and the result obtained would be different from the prototypical representation where the peak value alone is important.

Another related point in this context is what is called the "focusing illusion". When one focuses on some aspect excluding others, the resulting cognitive bias may lead to erroneous conclusions. As an example, using weather to gauge the "happiness of Californians" can lead to a "focusing illusion". Same is true for memories. The remembering self suffers from a focusing illusion.

[quote author=Thinking, Fast And Slow]
...[T]he essence of focusing illusion can be described in a single sentence:
Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.
[/quote]

These findings make sense in the context of writing to heal mentioned in the Redirect thread. Pennebaker had found that rumination or repeating the writing exercise the same way did not show much improvement. A change of perspective - that of switching focus - had improvement. Trying to look at things from a different perspective could very well alter the experience of the remembering self. Another interesting feature is that in the realm of memories, what actually happened is probably less important than how we remember the experience. Revisiting memories, looking at them from different perspectives and finding meaning in them rewrites the past as we remember it and effects healing.
 

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Buddy said:
I'm also beginning to be suspicious of Wilson. "...feeling good and being accurate are often at odds with each other" doesn't really fit my experience. I also dislike the indiscriminate use of the words "consciousness" and "unconsciousness" when "awareness" and "subliminal awareness" seems more appropriate and a better pointer to the liminal threshold.

I also think he's got "rigid" and "flexible" backwards where he assigns attributes to "adaptive unconsciousness" and "consciousness" respectively. To me, "rigid" is an attribute of "frames" which is an aspect of awareness or cognition first, and before said frames sink into a subliminal realm to serve as "belief systems" and "unquestioned assumptions", etc. And "flexible" seems more a quality of "fluidity" which is an aspect of emotions, the feeling center, etc. Anyway, who asked me anything, and what do I know?
I think you better read the books before you start making critiques. Sounds to me as if the very systems they are describing are quite active in you.

Kahneman's book is more recent than Wilson's and more up to date.

The bottom line keeps coming back to the fact: you can't think with the way you think and the only way anybody has any hope of ever really knowing themselves is via a network and later, perhaps, via inference.

Kahneman has some nifty little examples, tests, etc, that enable the reader to understand exactly what is meant by the various terms, and he also makes clear why the terms are selected and what they encompass.

This book goes into the MUST READ pile.
 
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