Intuition and the dual process theory

What is intuition, or rapid thinking? It’s something that each of us has/does natively and we don’t even realize it.

Intuition, rapid thinking, or System 1, as psychologists call it is the process through which we make a lot of decisions. It is something that has been with us since the times humans evolved and we also still share it with many animals. It involves non-logical, fast, automatic, low effort and contextualized decisions like:

  • knowing 2+2=4
  • driving on the motorway, or on an empty road
  • finishing the sentence: bread and ….
  • spatial orientation
  • detecting hostility

Most, if not all skills in System 1 are acquired and embedded in our minds.

While System 2 makes the logical decisions, the abstract ones, the harder to make that are usually much slower like:

  • tell somebody your phone numbers
  • fill out an online form
  • decide between two pants to wear
  • select a book
  • look for a friend, in a crowd, wearing a red shirt

Here is a diagram of the dual process theory:


Now, here are the interesting facts that I learned about these dual processes: you can shift something from System 2 to System 1 by doing it often enough and when we think about multi-tasking, we generally do one or more things that belong in System 1.

One example of when you are switching from System 1 to System 2, like when you are driving on a motorway and you are doing it without really concentrating on the task, but you are approaching another car that you need to overtake.

From my own personal experience, I have a very unusual example, that can show how processes get moved from System 2 to System 1.
When I was in my first year at university, I started working as a casino dealer, as that was what I could find and it sounded really exciting and interesting.

While I was doing my training, I had to learn complex multiplications by heart like 17×16, 35×23, 175×2.5 When I first began, this seemed very hard and I had to try and do the multiplications every time I had to pay out a bet at the roulette table.
We were told that we had to memorize the multiplications and when we are in the middle of the action, we will just know the result, like we know that 2+2=4.
I remember this seemed unlikely, but I worked at it, and sure enough, the result was automatically popping into my mind.

If you think about it, many skills we do automatically and very fast today, have seemed very hard at some point in our lives and we had to gather them.

Tell me your thoughts...

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