System 1 and System 2 in human cognition
According to Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Gile
[email protected]
www.cirinandgile.com
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The basics
Daniel Kahneman (Thinking fast and slow, Penguin, 2012):
Human cognition can be modeled as driven by two “Systems”:
(fictitious – no such “systems” exist, but the model works well to
explain and predict phenomena)
System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no
effort and no sense of voluntary control
(basically ‘automatic operations’)
Most of the time, our cognition is driven by System 1,
Rather efficiently
System 2 allocates attention to effortful mental activities
(basically ‘controlled operations’)
It comes in when decisions or actions become complex and
need attention, with a feeling of ‘concentration’. It is much
slower.
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System 1 – what it does
System 1 detects simple relations
(“they are all alike”, “the son is much taller than the father”)
and
excels at integrating information about one thing
It effortlessly generates impressions and feelings
These are the main source of explicit beliefs and of deliberate
choices by System 2
but
it does not deal with multiple distinct topics at once
nor is it adept at using purely statistical information.
For such operations, System 2 comes in
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System 1 – Examples
- It can detect that one object is more distant from us then another
- It can complete the sentence “Thank you Mister …”
- It can answer the question “How much is two plus two?”
- If you are French, it can answer the question “What is the
capital of France?”
- It can drive a car on an empty wide road
- It can understand simple sentences
- In experts, it can find a strong move in chess
Some of these operations are complex, but they have been
practiced to such an extent that they are ‘automatic’ for all
intents and purposes
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System 2 – What it does with examples
Everything that requires attention and is disrupted when
attention is drawn away
- Focus on the voice of a speaker in a noisy room
- Search memory to find the name of a person that you forgot
- Keep walking faster than is natural for you
- Make sure you behave properly during a job interview
- Park in a narrow space
- Check that a complex statement is logical
In all these situations you must pay attention
and will perform less well if your attention is directed
inappropriately
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The control of attention
The control of attention is shared by the two systems
Orienting to a large sound is normally involuntary (System 1)
But
When it happens, System 2 is immediately mobilized to pay
attention to what is going on
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Attention is limited
There is a limited amount of attention that you can allocate
(deliberately) to activities,
And when you try to take more, you fail
Effortful activities interfere with each other,
So it is difficult or impossible to conduct several at once
There is a controversy in psychology as to whether there is one
general pool of attentional resources or several distinct pools, in
which case one effortful activity does not necessarily interfere
with another
But it is postulated that similar effortful activities do interfere
with each other more than dissimilar activities
In interpreting, discourse comprehension and production are
probably similar enough to interfere significantly with each other
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System 1 and System 2 working together (1)
Both systems are active when we are awake.
System 1 runs automatically (no effort)
System 2 is in low-effort mode, with a fraction of its capacity
being engaged
System 1 generates impressions, intuitions, intentions, feelings
System 2 generally accepts them
System 2 also monitors continuously one’s behavior
But when System 1 runs into difficulty, it calls on System 2 to
help
When a difficult problem is detected
When something unexpected or implausible is detected
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System 1 and System 2 working together (2)
System 1 cannot be turned off
System 1 functions with heuristics:
Affect heuristic
Availability heuristic…
Has biases:
Confirmation bias
Halo effect…
These may lead to irrational behavior
Which System 2 does not necessarily detect,
Inter alia, because…
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System 2 is lazy
The defining feature of System 2…., and one of its main
characteristics is laziness, a reluctance to invest more effort than
is strictly necessary.
So as long as it does not detect something strange, it just follows
System 1’s impressions, feelings etc.
When people reach a maximum workload and are asked to do
more, they give up
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Switching from one task to another
One of the significant discoveries of cognitive psychologists
in recent decades is that switching from one task to another
is effortful,
especially under time pressure
Time pressure is a driver of effort
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Stress and motivation
Too much concern about how well one is doing in a task
sometimes disrupts performance by loading short-term memory
with pointless anxious thoughts…
A series of surprising experiments by the psychologist Roy
Baumeister and his colleagues has shown conclusively that all
variants of voluntary effort – cognitive, emotional of physical –
draw at least partly on a shared pool of mental energy….
Baumeister’s group has repeatedly found that an effort of will or
self-control is tiring; if you have had to force yourself to do
something, you are less willing or less able to exert self-control
when the next challenge comes around. The phenomenon has
been named ego depletion.
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Self-control is depleting and unpleasant
Activities that impose high demands on System 2 require selfcontrol
The exertion of self-control is depleting and unpleasant
Depletion is at least in part a loss of motivation
The idea of mental energy is more than a metaphor: The nervous
system consumes more glucose than most other parts of the body
Effortful mental activity is especially expensive in glucose
Ego depletion could be undone by ingesting glucose
Tired and hungry judges tend to fall back on the easier default
position
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Implications and thoughts for interpreters and
interpreting students (1)
On the whole, interpreting involves
- Efforts (System 2)
- Switching attention allocation (effortful)
- Self-control (mildly unpleasant)
With practice,
- The comprehension of some ideas in the delegates’ discourse
- And the production of some ‘speech molecules’ in the
interpreter’s speech
- (and of some notes in note-taking)
Become largely automated
And can be processed by System 1
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Implications and thoughts for interpreters and
interpreting students (2)
As students:
- Most of you are not yet familiar with typical delegate-speech
Some comprehension and production tasks that will
eventually be processed by System 1 are still in the hands
of System 2 – This will change with practice
- Most of you are perhaps not yet skilled in task switching –
This will change with practice
- In the classroom, you are under stress, and this reduces
available attentional resources
The good news is that with practice, things should get easier
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