Kahneman uses the psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West’s system of mind termed, simply, System 1 and System 2.
- System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.
- System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.¹
A good portion of the book details how these two systems interact with each other as well as impact our decision making processes.
Some Examples of System 1
(From page 37)
- Answer 2 + 2 = ?
- Detect hostility in a voice
- Orient to the source of a sudden sound
- Understand simple sentences
Kahneman views System 1 as the originator of much the deliberate choices that affect System 2.
Some Examples of System 2
(From page 39)
- Focus attention on the clowns in a circus
- Look for a woman with white hair
- Search memory to identify a surprising sound
- Tell someone your phone number
- Fill out a tax form
The key point being that System 2 requires you to pay attention. To actively think.
And Key: How to Think of System 1 and 2 in the Form of a Narrative
…think of the two systems as agents with their individual abilities, limitations, and functions.
¹Kahneman, Daniel. “The Characters of a Story.” In Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 37.