System 1 and 2 quick guide

By 17/10/2018All

In our post ‘Kahneman Fast and Slow thinking explained‘ we have elaborated in depth on system 1 and 2 thinking and Daniel Kahneman’s work. This post is meant for those who already grasp the groundbreaking concepts of Kahneman on human decision making as explained in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow‘. But now and then need a visual reminder of the differences between system 1 and 2. We have made an overview with the main characteristics of both the system 1 and system 2 operating systems in our brain by highlighting the differences between the two.

system 1 and 2

Thinking Fast and Slow is all about how our brain uses short-cuts to base our decisions upon. One of the short-cuts that have been tested in scientific research is the use of the picture of a brain, as depicted above. The research showed that if you use a picture of a brain, for example on your keynote slides, the system 1 of your listeners will think you are smart.

We thought it was a nice tip, before we give you the overview or quick guide, that we’ve very smartly put together. It is just one of the examples of how powerful the understanding of system 1 and 2 thinking can be. And if you start accepting that we are all irrational human beings, driven by our subconscious you start to understand how you can influence behaviour without changing minds.


      System 1 System 2
Unconscious reasoning Conscious reasoning
Judgments based on intuition Judgments based on examination
Processes information quickly Processes information slowly
Hypothetical reasoning Logical reasoning
Large capacity Small capacity
Prominent in humans and animals Prominent only in humans
Unrelated to working memory Related to working memory
Effortlessly and automatically With effort and control
Unintentional thinking Intentional thinking
Influenced by experiences, emotions and memories Influenced by facts, logic and evidence
Can be overridden by System 2 Used when System 1 fails to form a logical/acceptable conclusion
Prominent since human origins Developed over time
Includes recognition, perception, orientation, etc. Includes rule following, comparisons, weighing of options, etc.

Would you like to know more?