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Thinking Fast and Slow

Page history last edited by swanson@... 7 years, 11 months ago

Notes on Daniel Kahneman's book thinking fast and slow


Another book to consult: Rationality and the reflective mind


I am interested in his thoughts on how we construct the world and how that can be related to allergies and how students view knowledge information and research


System one answers questions it is not asked. It tends to answer easier questions and substitute that answer for the actual question.


It also is very poor at handling and judging intuitively statistics


In practice it is impossible for system to constantly try to second-guess system one


The best we can do is to attempt to recognize situations where system one fails. We can then try to take action with system two


Where are the points and information literacy that system one interferes with decision-making?



Most approaches to instructional design take pains to acknowledge the existing knowledge in the learner. Students do not come to us as blank slates


In critical pedagogy and by extension critical information literacy, we work to value that existing knowledge and to minimize the privilege status of the instructor, The social context,  and the school environment


Ironically it is this pre-existing knowledge that may sabotage some students approaches to many topics


Does the availability heuristic explain my approach to believe and it's influence on information? Beliefs are essentially heuristics that we use to explain the world. They are shorthand.


Conclusions come first and arguments follow

The bat and ball problem is an example of where the conclusion seems obvious and then the logic follows

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?


Another one

all roses are flowers

Some flowers fade quickly

Therefore some roses fade quickly


Are you more likely to be. Killed by a mosquito or a bear?


Are you more likely to be murdered in the city of Chicago or accidentally killed hunting? (looks like 100 people die/year from hunting accidents) (1,860 murders)


Two contradictory things that I am interested in One is observable reality and making decisions with data and information. Using data and information to correct in your assumptions and error


The second is that we all have to make judgments of value when we determine what we think is important. we use heuristics as shorthand to determine what to ignore around us and what to notice and act on.


We need to seek a balance between being ultra rationalists and being ultra relativists.


Associative activation

An automatic response by the brain of connecting outside ideas to meaning



Bananas vomit

It is difficult for most people to look at those words next to each other and not start to think about vomiting bananas


System one did its best to make sense of the information given. It a sensually made a story.


Any ideas when they aren't countered automatically Cause reactions many of which are emotional


Some people will have very strong reactions to having the word bananas next to the vomit. Recent science has shown that we think with our bodies as much as our brain. This is called embodied cognition. Our bodies are always reacting to the ideas that we encounter.


Many times system one tells the story and system to believes it.


We need to train our system to to be skeptical of what system one says


Illusion of familiarity: New ideas that are similar to previous experiences that you have had or easier to connect to an process for your brain. For example made up of names that are similar to the names you already know will feel familiar to you and you may think you know these people even if they are not real people.


Cognitive ease versus cognitive strain: when new information is easy to process by being familiar to something you may already know this is called pocket to ease. Cognitive ease happens in system one and then system to make the judgment that this must be true because it was easy to process. This is a case where system one is telling system to a story that may or may not be true.


This is a common occurrence in marketing and in politics. The more often and idea is repeated the more likely it is to feel true due to cognitive ease.


when we go on gut feelings often this is where the feelings come from.




There is lily pad on Lake

Each day the Lillypad doubles in size

If It takes 48 days to cover the entire lake, how long would it take the Lillypad to cover half the Lake?


Answer 47 days


Association games

System one cannot resist connecting ideas to each other


Here are three words that the brain will connect


Rat cake cottage

answer cheese

Most native English speakers get this one fairly easily


Here is more difficult one.

Dive ship rocket

Answer sky

Only 20% of people get this one within 15 seconds. But once the answer is given most people see the association


If there are words that do not have an association the brain will work to try to find one.


Book tree light


Mood has a major impact on system one. Research is showing that being in a bad mood can get in the way of our associative judgments and our ability to make decisions. The power of positive thinking is real


There is evidence that being in a good mood makes us less skeptical because we are more intuitive been open to new ideas. this may make evolutionary sense.  being on guard and uncomfortable activated system to and makes us more logical and ready to computer problems that may arise


to have knowledge there is a certain amount of self reflection that is necessary. To understand we must understand ourselves. What's life experiences shape us? Where do our beliefs come from? What counts as knowledge?


For instance it is well established that the earth is millions of years old and that life has followed a trajectory set by an evolutionary process. This has been established in multiple disciplines with multiple studies with piles of data.  there are several religious traditions that flatly deny this data. An individual may or may not believe that the earth is millions of years old and that evolution is happening to life. He or she may choose to follow the religious traditions that do not accept these theories. In either case and individual must consider what are the source of my beliefs what evidence is convincing to me and why would I not believe other kinds of evidence?


System one enacts belief. It makes associations and it makes connections based on past experience and knowledge. System two is really the place that disbelief happens. When we talk about critical thinking what we are really talking about in most cases his system to examining what assumptions are in place in this context and knocking them down and putting holes in them.


System one is full of biases and assumptions. System to can counteract these.


The halo effect


In many situations the first emotional response you have to a person or an idea what color the way the rest of your interaction with that person or idea goes.


Example you may meet somebody in a social situation and they may be very friendly and you may like them a great deal. You may be asked whether this person would be willing to give to a charity. You have no real ability to know or judge whether this person is generous. You just like them. But often times because we like them we will make assumptions such as assuming they are generous and they will give to a charity.



System one has a specially powerful associative abilities. System to can also recall knowledge and data. There has always been a debate and tension with an education about the amount of time students should spend absorbing information versus how much time they should spend skill building and working on dispositions of learning. We have generally moved away from raw memorization of information and calling that education. This is especially true in an age where it is so easy to look up statistics and recorded data. however the associative properties of the mind is one justification for having students know some information. The brain build a mental picture and the deeper the knowledge the deeper that mental picture and the more likely the brain to make associations between complex sets of information.


When system one is working in a situation where information is lacking it becomes a machine for jumping to conclusions. It is a mechanism for telling a coherent story no matter what is accurate as measured against reality. It draws connections between ideas and then tells a story to fill in those ideas.




We are really bad at judging what evidence is missing. We use what we know. Hard to see all evidence or evaluate it appropriately


How do we define a heuristic?

They are especially useful for handling problems of probability which the brain is not very well-equipped to handle.


Are heuristic is a simplified set of procedures developed to handle the problem. It is generally accurate but not perfectly accurate


When a difficult and probability question arises a similar or related to restrict question may be substituted. System one automatically does this and many times we think we have solved the target question when we have really only saw the heuristic question.



Target question: what political issues are likely to arise in the next six months?

Heuristic question: what are the major political issues we are dealing with today?

It is impossible to really predict all of the things that may arise in the next six months. And unforeseen event may drastically shift the conversation. Because it is on for scene we cannot accurately predict that it will arise. That's the best we can do is to look at the things we know and try to guess at some of the things we will deal with.


Sometimes the heuristic question that we are left with is really a question that focuses on E motion.


Target question: what is the appropriate punishment for the con artist who defrauded the elderly people of their savings?

Heuristic question: how angry I am I at the con artist who defrauded the elderly people?


There are times when system two can trump and override system one. This is especially true in terms of logical reasoning and analysis that involves data.


There are other times where system one override system two. In instances where attitudes prevail System to this powerless to override system one . The amount of information that system to can pull up or the amount of logical reasoning that system to can apply will not change dominant attitudes.



The phenomenon where answers come first and arguments from second is most pronounced where emotions are concerned.


This is an instance where System 1D rail system two before even has a chance


Our ability to understand statistics and numbers is one of our major flaws in understanding the world.


If you look at the occurrences of a particular kind of cancer (he uses an example of kidney cancer) and split this out by counties across the United States, you will find that The counties with the highest percentage and the counties with the lowest percentage are all rural counties. How could this be? What is it about rural counties that make them have high and low at the same time?

Actually it is nothing about being rural at all. It is a factor of having very low populations and therefore Erratic samples. Counties with larger populations are larger sample sizes and therefore move toward the mean. They are by definition more representative of the larger population.

when confronted with the question of why rural counties have high or low percentages of a particular kind of cancer, our brain will focus on the fact that they are Rural counties and not think about the number distribution.


Another example

If we thought about the likelihood of boys or girls being born in a particular hospital, we often fool ourselves into what should be expected.

we look at patterns such as:

Day one: bbbb

Day two: gggg

How likely is it that on day 3 four boys would be born?

it is equally likely to any other outcome because having a boy or a girl is not related. The outcomes are independent. we feel like a mix of girls and boys is actually random and more likely. however having all-girls and all boys is just as likely.


Your own experiences are most available to you. It is difficult to avoid this. You use these experiences to make sure it's about what is common even though these experiences may be very biased.


If you had a bad experience in a quart or if you were discriminated against or if you got very lucky it is easy to extend these experiences to all people in similar experiences.



Availability bias

There are several factors that can impact the availability bias The minds can be primed or anchored to specific numbers and that will impact outcomes and how people answer questions.

If you asked someone to write down five instances of them being assertive and then asked them to rates how assertive they are overall you will get a different answer than if you asked him to write down 12 instances of them being assertive and then ask them how assertive they are overall. It is difficult for most people to come up with 12 instances and therefore they feel like they're not very assertive


Existing knowledge plays games with the availability bias If you come to a topic that is truly new to you so you know nothing about it System two kicks in and you wait evidence and you make balanced decisions.

If you are an expert on the topic with deep knowledge then system one and system to can interact in some very useful ways that help you analyze a problem but also have useful intuitions around a problem.

The challenge arises when you have superficial or a minimal knowledge about a topic. In these cases, we often act on our feelings or system one. System to does not have enough information to override system one. We are more open to influences such as priming at anchoring or team affiliations. Our limited personal experiences make it difficult for us to see the broader picture.


Most people are really knowledgeable in a few subjects. Most of the time, we are making due with poor knowledge.


Representative examples as substitutes

In some cases where the statistics are difficult to grasp we may substitute a stereotype or a representative example in place of actually thinking about the numbers


for instance we may ask the question are there more introverts as librarians or as farmers? There are many more people who are in farming van are in libraries. Therefore there are more farmers who are introverts. However we may allow ourselves to use the stereotype of librarians and put that in place of the actual numbers


We have a difficulty with probability or predicting likelihood. These are situations where we fall back on our beliefs for our heuristics about the world.


there are many times when representative examples for stereotypes are accurate or at least useful. For example it is true that people who hold PhD's are more likely to subscribe to the New York Times Than are people who dropped out of high school.


However when stereotypes or representative examples are incorrect then they can do harm. When representative examples get in the way of better data that could be used to make a decision then representative example or stereotype does Harm.



If you meet a woman who is shy and loves poetry, is she more likely to be studying ancient Chinese poetry or business administration? The answer is business administration. There are vastly more people studying this and much fewer people studying ancient Chinese poetry. Even if all of the people who are studying ancient Chinese poetry were female and shy and love poetry odds would still be in favor of business administration.


Another problem with heavily relying on representative samples or stereotypes. is our in ability to judge the quality of evidence when faced with the problem. We give too much credit to representative samples even in the face of good evidence that should help us overcome these representations.


Example where system one gets in the way of system two Sarah has multiple tattoos. She also has multiple piercings. On weekends she prefers combat boots too high heels.

Based on this description is Sarah more likely

A: A bank teller

B: A feminist bank teller


What is more probable?

there was a massive flood in California that killed more than 1000 people


There was an earthquake that caused a massive flood in California that killed more than 1000 people


We tend to like the story with more detail even though the detail means it is less likely


Our brain is so bad at statistics that it is very difficult to change someone's worldview by giving them numbers. It is easier to change worldview by giving individuals examples or stories that connects with their need to make causal relationships about the world.



Highly intelligent women tend to marry man less intelligent than them why?

If you ask this at a party people will come up with all kinds of causal relationships. The women do not want to be threatened by their partners. men tend to find intelligent women more attractive. And all kinds of other reasons Here is the explanation It is on likely in any relationship that both partners will have the exact same scores on any intelligence test. The scores are always different. Therefore it becomes a mathematical fact that most people will be less intelligent than these highly intelligent women and of them marrying a man less intelligent than themselves are great. On average highly intelligent women will have to marry men who are on average less intelligent than them. Albees man may end up being more intelligent than the average intelligence for all man or they may not.

This is known as the regression to the mean. When one case varies greatly from the mean the next case by definition will have a high likelihood of moving to the mean


Our mind does not do well with recognizing regression to the mean. We are programmed to think in terms of causal relationships and to seek out those causes. When we work in a system with variability, we want to attribute cause to the variability. Often times there are many factors and variables pushing any number or outcome toward the mean. We want to give causal explanations for differences in individual cases but in reality each case will move toward the mean on the whole.


he describes regression to the mean as luck. I do not like this description. For instance he says that a golfer who has a good score one day is probably going to have a less good score the next day. This is regression to the mean because it is difficult to have two awesome scores two days in a row. He says the good score is a matter of the luck that the score moved away from the mean. I like it described as an amount of variables that are difficult to control. The kinds of variables that have to control to make a good golf score are very hard to manage and predict for most of us this is especially true for the person playing golf The's it is not so much that luck causes these good scores. But actually a complex alignment of variables that is unlikely and difficult to predict so that it feels like luck


Narrative fallacy

Flawed stories of the past influence our views of the present and future


we are storytelling machines that's give credit to concrete things that we can see. We are not good at estimating or understanding the things that failed to happen.



I don't know why we need to buy these car seats for our kids we don't have car seats when we were growing up and we were okay. In this example our one case which is our own lives over emphasizes and discounts the thousands of other cases were serious injuries happen. It also is impossible for us to understand how many lives have been saved thanks to car seats


Confidence in the validity of our knowledge for our beliefs is often based on the following items:


The feelings we get based on the coherence of the stories we tell ourselves about that item--so the more complete and connected the story is the better it feels and therefore the more likely we are to. Trusted


The cognitive ease at which we have in recalling information--The easier it is to access a memory or knowledge based on experience that we've had the more likely we are to believe it even if this experience does not represent the norm or the average of most instances


Bus when an individual says that he or she has high confidence in the knowledge they hold this does not always mean that the knowledge represents reality. More often than not it means that the person has a very coherent story about that knowledge


At times system one and system to Ken seem so very disconnected



We can study nutrition and learn about health. Intellectually we can understand what causes us to gain weight and the activities we should perform in order to lose weight.

But at the moment of decision when you are looking at the hot fudge sundae it is difficult to change your desires.

intellectual knowledge is not a good competitor for feelings desires and beliefs.


Your experiences act as a reference point from which to compare new information that you encounter


This is your baseline for understanding the world


If you are rich then you will see things differently than if you're poor


An example of the interplay between system one and two


You are given a choice

What a coin

If heads comes up you get $150

If tails come up you lose $100

From a classical economic standpoint this is an advantage. Have an equal chance to gain more than you can lose.

But most people almost always turn down this option.  losing $100 is always more painful than the good feelings you would get from gaining $150. System two is involved in computing the totals but the final decision is really a system one decision because of the feelings that the loss would involve


Our first influence on how we interact with information & decision making is our own experience


The second influence is word of mouth or community understandings


Next comes outside sources


Example of how availability bias and experience help us interpret the world


Mr. Brown never picks up hitchhikers but yesterday he made an exception and picked up a hitchhiker. He was robbed by this hitchhiker.


Mr. Smith always picks up hitchhikers. He picks them up on a regular basis every chance he gets. Yesterday he picked up a hitchhiker and he was robbed.


How do these two men interpret their experiences differently?


Experimenters had participants place their hands in a bowl of icy water for 60 seconds this is long enough for it to be painful


Then they had participants place their hand in a bowl for 60 seconds and then after 60 seconds they started adding Warmwater for another 30 seconds totaling 90 seconds. The Warmwater started to ease their discomfort in the final 30 seconds


Participants were then told that they would have to do a third round of ice water. But they could choose 60 seconds or 90 seconds with the Warmwater.


most of them shows the 90 seconds even though it is longer and is not the logical choice because the last 30 seconds are still discomfort. But the memory they constructed is the end of the experiment and it was a more pleasant experience as they remember it even though it may not of been as pleasant of experience as measured during the experience because it went longer.



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