I am drafting this article in the days when I am immersed in reading “Thinking, fast and slow” by Daniel Kahneman and I would like to describe to you the idea behind the two cognitive systems that generate our thinking.
As described in his book, two different but complimentary neurological processes exist to moderate the way we interact with the world: the fast-thinking, or System 1, and slow-thinking, or System 2. They exist in a hierarchy defined by the immediateness and priority with which they activate and influence our behaviour.
The fast-thinking system mediate the impulsive responses we produce reacting to the external environment and can be a very dynamic system as it changes over time as we train ourselves to act and react to different stimuli. For example, the most unconscious and low-energy demanding activities like walking in a straight line or engage in a casual chat are governed by the System 1.
On the other hand, the slow-thinking system is a more complex neurocognitive process that is always active in an “idle” mode as we go through our life and fully activate when a too complex cognitive task is demanded. Science has clearly defined boundaries beyond which this system engages with complex cognitive tasks, and it is different for everyone.
The automatic operations of System 1 generate surprisingly complex patterns of ideas, but only the slower System 2 can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps. Therefore, general cognitive ability is closely related to the capacity of an individual to leverage properly the slow-thinking system to produce deeper, more abstract, and never novel thoughts.
Another evident aspect of the fast-thinking system is that is deeply subject to any sort fo biases that alter the quality of the impulsive thinking and require the intervention of the slow-thinking system to properly complete a cognitive task. Sometimes this does not happen though, and the most impulsive people often make mistakes in simple tasks due to the excessive faith they put on their intuition.
A final interesting though about the System 2 is its energy consumption. It has been proven how the use of a slow-thinking cognitive process consumes more blood glucose and therefore the acquisition of glucose in the moments right before the task can improve the level of attention and the performance of the slow-thinking system.