Welcome to The Daily Kind, where we help you stay inspired to raise humans ready for anything.
I'm Kirk Wheeler. It's March 5th, 2021. I'm so glad you're here.
If you've ever had the opportunity to help with math homework, then you may have experienced both the joy of remembering just how much math is automatic in your brain, as well as being amazed at how much you've forgotten. And if you had to resort to a pencil and paper to do some of the more difficult problems, you're experiencing what Daniel Kahneman calls our system one and system two thinking, and knowing the difference between these two systems can be a huge help when you need truth to be the soil.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman
Let's start with some of the math that you probably have a shortcut for in your brain. Here we go.
What's 2 + 2? ( FAST SFX)
I'm guessing that the answer was probably in your mind before the sound effects even finished.
Here's another one. What is 18.4, five times 37.08. (SLOW SFX)
Even if you had to pull out a calculator on your phone for this one, more than likely it took some time. And if I asked you to only use a pencil and paper, it would have taken even longer. You could have done it, but you would have had to slow down and think about it. In this first example, you've built a shortcut and you're able to answer the question without even thinking.
We do this for so many tasks every day. If we had to slow down and think about all of the steps for all of the activities that we need to do to simply manage the day-to-day world, we inhabit, we would never get anything done. But sometimes we might need to bypass some of these shortcuts to move ourselves in the direction we want to go.
And much of this thinking is done without us even realizing it.
Imagine yourself walking down a street you know well, you're seeing houses or buildings that you've seen time and time again. And as you approach the corner, you see the same cat that you've seen time and time again, but just as you begin to look away, the cat barks.
Suddenly your system one thinking is failing you and system two gets activated. It kicks in when a different type of attention is required from us, from cats barking to math problems.
So what's the takeaway?
(VO: Can we take away the cat that barked? that was weird.)
It's more of a takeaway for you as someone responsible for raising a human ready for anything, while their systems are still in development yours are pretty well set. But all is not lost, just by knowing that you have this intuitive system, one that uses shortcuts and a slower system two, that you can call on when needed, you have an opportunity to notice situations where it makes the most sense to slow down and check your system for errors and biases, and fool yourself a little less often.
But if you find this difficult, don't worry. Even Daniel Kahneman who wrote the book on this idea says that it's much easier to recognize it in others than it is in ourselves. So maybe you'll see it come up in the humans you are raising and recognize it for what it is.
And if you're curious to learn more about this concept, I highly recommend Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.
I hope you find this helpful. Be sure to take care of yourself today, hydrate. And remember, there is no perpetual parenting playbook. We're all learning as we go. And with curiosity as our map and the willingness to recognize the ways that our automatic thinking might impact us, we can be ready for anything.
So good luck. You've got this. I'm rooting for you.