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Friday, September 28, 2012

The World-Wide Id

Thanks to Twitter, we can instantly tell the world about anything that comes into our heads, which is not necessarily a good thing.  

Our technologies have evolved quickly but our brains have not. As the great psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains in Thinking, Fast and Slow, we have two systems in our heads. System 1 represents intuition, supplying us with instant feelings, impressions and impulses. System 2 represents deliberation, involving intelligence and reason. We have to rely on System 1 for split-second decisions because System 2 just doesn’t operate fast enough.

When we’re playing a sport or driving a car, this reliance on intuition can work well. People develop a sense of when they can change lanes or steal third base without doing cost-benefit analyses. Public life is different. System 1 draws on stereotypes and mental shortcuts that can mislead us when we apply them to political questions. It is better to engage System 2, thinking things through and seeking additional information.

In an article today in The Christian Science Monitor, I explain why System 1 dominates social media -- much to the detriment of deliberative democracy.