Two Systems Theory

There are no paradigms in Psychology. To be blunt, we don't know what the fuck we're doing. We've some theories about how the mind works, some seem correct, but they don't easily coexist with one another. Like physics seeks to unify unrelated theories into a unified theory called M-Theory, so too, in my opinion, must psychology if we wish to have a unified paradigm. Now, the entire enterprise of believing we can map out the human mind or physical nature is quite audacious and may not even be possible, but this has become a tangent and I haven't even introduced the topic yet.

A prominent and current proposed paradigm in psychology and all of its branches is the Two Systems Theory. It proposes that the mind is made up of two major systems, or players, or whatever analogy does it for you. System 1 is our intuitive, subconscious, fast thinking, heuristic forming, habitual mind. System 2 is our critically thinking, conscious, slow, self controlling mind.

These two systems are always playing a game. Your unconscious and intuitive system 1 is fucking powerful. Some assholes would argue it runs the show, thus relieving you of free will, but we won't go there. System two is your consciousness. This system can willfully assimilate new ideas that can affect system 1, but this is a slow and effortful process. Most cognitive dissonance, if not all, stems from our system 1.

An example of System One:

Within a moment, you can tell his emotional state, or whatever emotional state an interdimensional DMT smoking space lizard can experience. This is your system 1 working correctly. Some areas this system regulates are:
  • Detect that one object is more distant than another.
  • Orient to the source of a sudden sound.
  • Complete the phrase "bread and..."
  • Make a "disgust face" when showed a horrible picture.
  • Detect hostility in a voice.
  • Answer 2+2
  • Read words on large billboards
  • Drive a car on an empty road.
  • Understand simple sentences.
  • I also think this system is responsible for our interpretation of phenomena we don't understand based on the belief systems our system 2 has created i.e. religionosity, nihilism, atheism, naturalism, etc.

Now an example of System Two:


Unless Rain Man is reading my blog, you can't compute this intuitively. You probably know 123 is too small and 3,325 is too large, but you would have to allocate deliberate effort in coming up with 459. (Yeah, my lazy ass Googled.)

Other examples of System 2:

  • Brace for the start of a gun race.
  • Focused attention on players at a sports game.
  • Focusing your attention on a singular voice at a loud party.
  • Looking for a woman with white hair.
  • Search memory to identify a surprising sound.
  • Maintaining a faster walking speed than is natural.
  • Monitoring your behavior is a social situation.
  • Telling someone your phone number.
  • Filling out a tax for.
An interesting and complicated problem is how to combine this with our model of memory. How do drugs effect these two systems? How do companies exploit these system's short comings? Why did our minds evolve in this fashion? How can technology manipulate these systems? Do these two systems cover all mental activity?

I think my next few posts will be about this topic. I'm reading Daniel Kahneman's Magnum Opus on the subject and it nears 500 pages. I'll leave you with this:

 An individual has been described by a neighbor as follows: "Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail."

Is Steven more likely to be a librarian or a farmer? Why?