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Of Two Minds When Making a Decision

from Scientific American

One of the more enduring ideas in psychology ... is the notion that human behavior is not the product of a single process, but rather reflects the interaction of different specialized subsystems.

These systems, the idea goes, usually interact seamlessly to determine behavior, but at times they may compete. The end result is that the brain sometimes argues with itself, as these distinct systems come to different conclusions about what we should do. The major distinction responsible for these internal disagreements is the one between automatic and controlled processes.

System 1 is generally automatic, affective and heuristic-based, which means that it relies on mental "shortcuts." It quickly proposes intuitive answers to problems as they arise. System 2, which corresponds closely with controlled processes, is slow, effortful, conscious, rule-based and also can be employed to monitor the quality of the answer provided by System 1. If it's convinced that our intuition is wrong, then it's capable of correcting or overriding the automatic judgments.

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