System 1 (intuition; unconscious and uncontrolled) and System 2 (calculation; conscious and deliberate)
Norms, surprises and causes
- Causality — we are evidently ready from birth to have impressions of causality, which do not depend on reasoning about patterns of causation. Experiments show 6-month old infants see the sequence of events as a cause-effect scenario (and indicate surprise when the sequence is altered). [Products of System 1]
- Intentional causality — we are born prepared to make intentional attributions e.g. identify bullies/victims. Our mind is ready/even eager to identify agents, assign them personality traits and specific intentions, and view their actions as expressing individual propensities.
- "Merely statistical" facts = facts which change the probability of outcomes, but do not cause them to happen. System 1 is inept when faced with this. System 1 is highly adept in another form of thinking — automatic and effortless identification of causal connection between events (even when the connection is fake).
- Think about empirical causations (hitting an egg with a hammer) vs sampling (e.g. if you roll the dice, there are mathematical facts which determine the probability that numbers will be rolled X times more than others). You can predict outcomes of mathematical facts as confidently as hitting an egg with a hammer, but the difference is that the satisfying sense of causation you experience when hitting a hammer on the egg is altogether absent when you think about sampling.
Attention and effort / **The lazy controller — system 2 is lazy, requires self-control. (See the law of least effort and Ego depletion)
Associative Machine — system 1: our unconscious is primed to associate a lot of things. System 1 = an associative machine that represents reality by a complex pattern of links. (Representing only activated ideas, cannot allow for information it does not have →W YSIATI)
- The measure of success for System 1 is the coherence of the story it manages to create. The amount and quality of the data on which the story is based are largely irrelevant.
- Operations of associative memory contribute to confirmation bias. Deliberate searches for confirming evidence = positive test strategy, is how System 2 tests hypothesis.
Cognitive Ease — The illusion of familiarity
- Mere exposure effect → we like pictures or words that are presented more frequently.
- This is a consequence of evolution = distinguishing of objects that are safe vs dangerous. The most primitive basis of social attachments.
- When system 2 is engaged, we will believe almost anything. System 1 is gullible and biased to believe, System 2 is in charge of doubting and unbelieving, but sometimes busy, and often lazy.
- There is evidence that people are more likely to be influenced by empty persuasive messages, such as commercials, when they are tired and depleted.
- Bias favoring first impressions - halo effect
Taking sides: people who see one-sided evidence are more confident of their judgements than those who saw both sides. Which is expected, when the confidence people experience is determined by coherence of the story they constructed from available information. In other words, knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.
- There is utilitarian benefit for doing this: Jumping to conclusions (WYSIATI) explains why we can think fast and how we are able to make sense of partial information in a complex world. Much of the time, the coherent story we put together is close enough to reality to support reasonable action.
- On the same token, costs/risks are: Overconfidence, Framing effects, Base-rate neglect, among many others
The Affect heuristic: e.g. "He likes the project; so he thinks its costs are low and its benefits high."
- The present state of mind looms very large when people evaluate their happiness.
- An active, coherence-seeking System 1 suggests solutions to an undemanding System 2. In the context of attitudes, System 2 is more of apologist for the emotions of System 1 rather than a critic of those emotions — an endorser rather than an enforcer.
- Paul Slovic: in many domains of life, people form opinions and make choices that directly express their feelings and their basic tendency to approach or avoid, often without knowing they are doing so.
- The Affect heuristic is an instance of substitution, in which the answer to an easy question (how do I feel about it?) serves as an answer to a much harder question (what do I think about it?)
The Law of Small Numbers: extreme outcomes (high and low) are more likely to be found in small than in large samples. This explanation is not causal, the small samples merely allow for the extreme outcomes to be much higher or lower than in larger sample.
- Researchers who pick too small a sample leave themselves at the mercy of sampling luck. A researcher pointed out that psychologists commonly chose samples so small that they exposed themselves to 50% risk of failing to confirm their true hypotheses! No researcher in his right mind would accept such a risk. People are not adequately sensitive to sample size.
- Artifacts = observations that are produced entirely by some aspect of the research method e.g. differences in sample size
- Recommendation: That researchers regard their "statistical intuitions with proper suspicion and replace impression formation by computation whenever possible."
See “Availability cascade”
Truth: How do you know that a statement is true?
If [a statement] 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.
The danger of assuming causality
People are prone to apply causal thinking inappropriately, to situations that require statistical reasoning.
Unfortunately, System 1 does not have the capability for this mode of reasoning; System 2 can learn to think statistically, but few people receive the necessary training.
My note: The phrase in statistics which describes this is "correlation does not imply causation"
Wisdom of the crowd?
The magic of error reduction works well only when the observations are independent and their errors uncorrelated. If the observers share a bias, the aggregation of their judgement will not reduce it. Allowing the observers to influence each other effectively reduces the size of the sample, and with it the precision of the group estimate.
Biases and heuristics simplifies our lives by creating a world that is much tidier than reality.