Caution: recognize your System 1 reactions, refine them with System 2 thinking, and keep fit

An essential attribute of a good lawyer is the ability to think clearly. It appears, however, that whatever goes on inside a human’s brain when it is processing input has two radically different personas: an impulsive, intuitive, impressionable, pattern-creating function and a more deliberate, evaluative, orderly and demanding function. Hence two Systems and the title of Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2011).

Kahneman describes the fast one, which he calls System 1, as one that takes whatever “facts” are easily at hand and creates a causal narrative (See 105 for an excellent summary). System 2 “can follow rules, compare objects on several attributes, and make deliberate choices between options” (at 36); it is more cautious and it is, when personified, lazy.

Kahneman’s fascinating book repeatedly shows the waywardness of System 1, and the challenge our System 2 has to modulate it or think more deeply. But to harness System 2 requires self-control. Many circumstances weaken self control: fatigue, stress, alcohol, low blood sugar, lack of sleep, illness. A sound mind in a sound body sums it up (See my post of May 18, 2007: stress and pressure with 7 references; June 11, 2008: stress with 18 references; July 30, 2010: anxiety and pressure with 9 references; and June 29, 2009: sleep with 10 references.).

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