One of the most influential theories of cognition in the last century is that posited by William James (1890) in which he suggested that reasoning in humans is divided into two distinct processing systems. The first is quick, effortless, intuitive and has little demand for cognitive capacity (known as System 1 processes) while the other is slow, effortful, deliberate and requires use of cognitive resources (System 2 processes) (Alter, Oppenheimer, Eyre & Epley, 2007; Morsanyi & Handly, 2011). Evidence suggests that we rely on our System 2 processing only after it has been triggered by certain cues and makes sense within the context of a situation (Reisberg, 2013 p. 414). As such, heuristic based judgments (System 1) are more likely to be used when under time constraints and System 2 judgments are more likely if more attention can be paid to the judgment being made (Reisberg, 2013 p. 414).
However, judgment errors can be made even when one is focused and alert and time constraints can contribute to heuristic based errors people are still able make correct assumptions even when under pressure (Reisberg, 2013 p. 414). So what does it all mean and why should it matter? The following papers discuss a number of important aspects of dual process theory and how it affects how we make decisions. The first by Alter, Oppenheimer, Epley and Eyre (2007) looks at metacogntive difficulty as an activator of analytic reasoning (System 2), the second by Topolinksi and Strack (2010) looks at how fluency effects can be prevented by blocking sources of fluency variation and finally the paper by Morisanyi and Handley (2011) discusses the interplay between System 1 and System 2 processes by looking at how people evaluate syllogisms and judge their validity. Each of these studies provides us with a unique look into our decision making processes with inferences to practical application.
Overcoming Intuition: Metacognitive Difficulty Activates Analytic Reasoning
In this study Alter et al. hypothesized that System 2 processes are activated by “metacognitive experiences of difficulty or disfluency during the process of reasoning” and as such serve as a “red flag” or a cue to draw our attention to, and possibly correct, some of the output produced by the quicker System 1 processes. In this study they completed four experiments.
The first experiment was to test the hypothesis that when we experience cognitive disfluency that will serve as a cue to adopt a systematic (and override the heuristic) approach to reasoning. The participants completed the Cognitive Reflection Test. This test consists of three items in which the initial (gut) reaction is incorrect but can be correctly answered if the participants engage in a deliberate reconsideration of the item. There were two conditions that were presented; The test was either administered in an easy to read font (fluent condition) or a difficult to read font (disfluent condition) and they hypothesized that more...