Fascinating Insight! How You Make Decisions

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m of two minds about this issue.” It means he or she can see both sides of the argument. However, this idiom confirms a deeper truth about the way we think, and, more importantly, the way our two minds can be in conflict with each other.

We all have two ways of thinking: Irrationally and Rationally. As you might surmise, they don’t always agree with each other. We use both types every day. However, for the most part, we behave irrationally more often than rationally.

My new book with Professor Ryan Hamilton of Emory University, called The Intuitive Customer: 7 imperatives for moving your Customer Experience to the next level, explains how these two ways of thinking can conflict throughout your day. It is the basis for our third imperative of the seven:

  • Imperative 3: Understand that customers’ minds can be in conflict with themselves

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow also covered the concept of the two types of thinking. Using another team’s research, he described a human brain as having two ways of thinking, the fast, intuitive way (which he calls System 1), and the slow, rational way (which he calls System 2). We access the fast, intuitive way first. It is an emotional type of thinking, our “gut reaction.” But our slow, rational way of thinking, both logical and laborious, may or may not agree with the conclusion our intuitive thinking produces. Sometimes the System 2 thinking overrules the System 1 conclusion outright.

However, the two kinds of thinking are not always at odds. Sometimes they enhance one another’s conclusions. Sometimes they work together to reach a conclusion.

The two ways of thinking don’t always interact either. Many times the System 2 thinking doesn’t even start, quite content to allow the System 1 thinking to carry on with its emotional conclusions, never inspired to weigh in at all. It rests while the System 1 thinking interprets events and creates outcomes. In fact, System 2 lets System 1 take the lead most of the time.

Is System 2 just lazy then? Not exactly. We developed these two ways of thinking for evolutionary reasons. System 2 takes a lot of energy to think; System 1 doesn’t. So when we were still hunting and gathering for our food, which took a lot of energy and sent us out into the jungle to forage (and flee predators, as the case may be), we chose to conserve our energy as long as possible.

Today we conserve energy for different reasons. An example is the concept of cognitive depletion. Cognitive depletion (also called Ego Depletion) refers to the state of mind a person reaches when they are tired where they no longer make good decisions. This short video explains the concept in more detail:

We see this behavior in our day-to-day work as Customer Experience Consultants. For example, those of you with a desk job, have you ever come home from a long day at work (at your desk) and felt exhausted? It’s a bit odd how tired you are when physically you did little and sat staring at a screen or in a meeting room most of the day. But it’s because you were using System 2 thinking, and thinking with System 2 requires much more energy than System 1.

For those of you with more physical activity in your day, you might also be exhausted. The only difference here is that most of us could see why if you loaded equipment on and off a truck several times or were giving massage therapy treatments all day.

In either case, you were exhausted when you got home. You could now cook a healthy dinner heavily weighted in the fruit and vegetable categories or order a pizza. System 2 knows the healthy dinner is a better choice and is better for your diet, but System 1 wants pizza, because, well, it’s pizza! How often do you start dialing the pizza shop? I would argue more times than not.

It’s not just that you want pizza over a healthy dinner, though. You call the pizza shop because you are tired. Your System 2 thinking conflicted with System 1, but didn’t have the energy to overrule the System 1 decision to order pizza. Since it was of little consequence (after all, you can always buy a bigger belt, right?), System 1 got its irrational way.

As survival at the water hole became less of a concern, our tendency to conserve energy did not. We have two ways of thinking and we still use them every day. The result is that these two systems, the irrational and the rational, interact in our decisions – and it isn’t always harmonious. Your thinking has conflicts. Depending on the situation, the consequences surrounding the decision, and the amount of energy you have at any given moment, it can go either way – and usually irrationally.

Do you recognize this thinking in yourself? Tell us an example.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Colin Shaw – View the original post

Published On: 23rd Sep 2016 - Last modified: 17th May 2017
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