Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Daniel Kahneman
them of effort, including a source with a complicated name.
    All this is very good advice, but we should not get carried away. High-quality paper, bright colors, and rhyming or simple language will not be much help if your message is obviously nonsensical, or if it contradicts facts that your audience knows to be true. The psychologists who do these experiments do not believe that people are stupid or infinitely gullible. What psychologists do believe is that all of us live much of our life guided by the impressions of System 1—and we often do not know the source of these impressions. How do you know that a statement is true? If it is strongly linked by logic or association to other beliefs or preferences you hold, or comes from a source you trust and like, you will feel a sense of cognitive ease. The trouble is that there may be other causes for your feeling of ease—including the quality of the font and the appealing rhythm of the prose—and you have no simple way of tracing your feelings to their source. This is the message of figure 5: the sense of ease or strain has multiple causes, and it is difficult to tease them apart. Difficult, but not impossible. People can overcome some of the superficial factors that produce illusions of truth when strongly motivated to do so. On most occasions, however, the lazy System 2 will adopt the suggestions of System 1 and march on.
    Strain and Effort
     
    The symmetry of many associative connections was a dominant theme in the discussion of associative coherence. As we saw earlier, people who are made to “smile” or “frown” by sticking a pencil in their mouth or holding a ball between their furrowed brows are prone to experience the emotions that frowning and smiling normally express. The same self-reinforcing reciprocity is found in studies of cognitive ease. On the one hand, cognitive strain is experienced when the effortful operations of System 2 are engaged. On the other hand, the experience of cognitive strain, whatever its source, tends to mobilize System 2, shifting people’s approach to problems from a casual intuitive mode to a more engaged and analytic mode.
    The bat-and-ball problem was mentioned earlier as a test of people’s tendency to answer questions with the first idea that comes to their mind, without checking it. Shane Frederick’s Cognitive Reflection Test consists of the bat-and-ball problem and two others, all chosen because they evoke an immediate intuitive answer that is incorrect. The other two items in the CRT are:
    If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
100 minutes OR 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?
24 days OR 47 days
     
    The correct answers to both problems are in a footnote at the bottom of the page. * The experimenters recruited 40 Princeton students to take the CRT. Half of them saw the puzzles in a small font in washed-out gray print. The puzzles were legible, but the font induced cognitive strain. The results tell a clear story: 90% of the students who saw the CRT in normal font made at least one mistake in the test, but the proportion dropped to 35% when the font was barely legible. You read this correctly: performance was better with the bad font. Cognitive strain, whatever its source, mobilizes System 2, which is more likely to reject the intuitive answer suggested by System 1.
    The Pleasure of Cognitive Ease
     
    An article titled “Mind at Ease Puts a Smile on the Face” describes an experiment in which participants were briefly shown pictures of objects. Some of these pictures were made easier to recognize by showing the outline of the object just before the complete image was shown, so briefly that the contours were never noticed. Emotional reactions were measured by recording

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