This unit focuses on how people make judgments based on arguments. When people think, the process is not always a deliberate, reflective, or critical process. Sometimes thinking is automatic (hence the expression, "being on autopilot") or quick and reactive. However, sometimes taking a moment--even just a split second--to "stop and think" results in higher quality decision making, even under time constraints.
Two primary motivations drive human decision making: argument making and cognitive heuristics. Argument making is the human propensity for logical self-explanation, and heuristics are mental "shortcuts" humans use to make judgments and decisions more expeditiously and efficiently. Unfortunately, heuristics often introduce errors and biases into thinking, too. Our textbook lists 17 of the most common heuristics (see pp. 129-144) and the possible errors from their misapplication (see pp. 144&145).
In addition to two motivations, scientific research demonstrates humans use two overlapping decision-making systems. System-1 is reactive, instinctive, quick, and holistic, and System-2 is reflective, deliberative, analytical, and procedural. Like other systems, both forms of thinking check and balance one another. People use both systems in response to the pushes and pulls of daily life, so both thinking systems have equal value.
System-1 thinking relies heavily on heuristics, is intuitive, and generally occurs in familiar situations requiring immediate action, such as snap judgments. System-1 thinking also frequently operates in the background. Have you ever completed a routine task, such as driving home, and not remembered it? People just do (System-1 thinking), rather than think-then-do (System-2 thinking).
System-2 thinking relies heavily on making arguments and offering explanations, focuses on resolving problems, and generally occurs in unfamiliar situations or for processing abstract concepts when there is time for more comprehensive deliberation. Humans like to think System-2 is in charge most of the time, but it's the irrepressible System-1 that runs our lives. There is simply too much going on every day for System-2 to analyze everything; System-2 has to pick its moments with care.
This video (http://youtu.be/KON0zJFN9l8) demonstrates what happens when people see the unexpected. Normally, the defending players would rely on System-1 to tell them what to do. However, because the play was so unexpected, System-1 didn't have an inbuilt response, and System-2 was slow to react (until the player started to run, of course). If someone made a movie about systems thinking, System-2 would be a supporting character who thinks that he or she is the hero. However, in fact, it's System-1 doing most of the work; the heuristics are simply hidden in the background.
In unit four, we discussed the idea of suspending judgment or simply making no judgment. This unit builds on that concept by demonstrating critical thinking skills by which people develop the capacity to entertain ideas without necessarily agreeing with or rejecting them. This is important to dominance structuring, also called the fortress of conviction. Dominance structuring is the four-phase process by which critical thinkers achieve confidence in their decisions and take action. However, once people make decisions, they almost never change their minds. Consequently, a downside of the dominance structuring process is that it can lock people into unwise decisions. Finally, this unit addresses critical thinking skills to help guard against hanging onto poor decisions.
- Recognize dominance structuring
- Identify the advantages and disadvantages of common cognitive heuristics
- Compare reactive and reflective thinking