Daniel Kahneman´s systems on decision making

Today we are going to discuss some important tools when it comes to analyzing human behaviors. We intend to state practical and clear examples that could be useful in everyday life. Although it has neuroscientific explanations we are not going to make use of them for the sake of the post.


Let’s start with two experiments. First take a glance at the next image:

Here we can see how our automatic mode is activated and working. We can make some very accurate predictions on the image. The most important is that the man is angry. He is probably yelling to someone in the cellphone. Probably the language that he is using is not very polite. This comes to our mind automatically. And those involuntary responses, predictions, decisions is what Kahneman define as System 1.

Now let’s take another task, try to solve the next multiplication:

Here we can see how the other system works. The answer, although you can get it, won’t come directly to your mind. In order to get the exact result you need to make some effort and attention. This type of thinking is slow, and infer a sequence of steps.


This terms were originally proposed by the psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West, and will refer to two systems in the mind, System 1 and System 2.


Both systems are active in normal conditions but each one tend to be more efficient in different situations. For example imagine that you are angry and want to yell someone that is annoying you, but it turns out to be your boss, what would the systems do?
System 1 is automatic, respond to emotions and works in an involuntary fast way, so it will yell but as the System 2 is aware of the possible consequences of yelling, so it takes control and stops you from making the very big mistake (here we are not judging the situation, in some occasions the correct thing to do is to yell, but this is a simple example). To do it, Systems 2 requires efforts and concentration.
Another simpler example could be the situation when you hear a powerful sound, it probably that unconsciously you turn around, and in order not to, you should make a conscious effort.
The same when you go to a restaurant an there is an exotic couple in the next table and you try to avoid staring.


As we said in the previous paragraph, each system is  more accurate in certain situations. Kahneman propose a rule of choice: our brain will follow the lowest effort way.
Daniel Kahneman investigated the use of mental energy that involved both process (Systems 1 and 2). He reached to the conclusion that System 2 requires much more energy and effort. That could explain why when is possible our brain chose the System 1 as it works in a faster, effortless way, and usually predict very accurate in easy situations. But not always it is the best choice, and as we saw in the previous examples when it was necessary, it tells System 2 to take charge in the decision making.

I hope you like this approach to Kahneman’s Systems and hope these one become new tools that help you analyze people behavior.