Kahneman system 1 and system 2: who wins?

Leonardo Saulle - February 2, 2021
consumer behavior economia intuito o ragionamento market research marketing psychology

Kahneman system 1 and system 2: who wins?

Kahneman system 1 and system 2 - PXR Italy

Kahneman system 1 and system 2: The Nobel Prize winner and psychologist believes that all people have two opposing mental systems that allow them to adapt better to their environment.

The psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman calls these two systems:

  • system 1, or intuitive (fast system);
  • system 2, or deliberative or rational (slow system).

The discovery of these two different but complementary ways of thinking is at the basis of the most recent and important discoveries in the field of economics: two Nobel prizes (Kahneman and Thaler) have been awarded to scholars of behavioural economics, a recent field of study that combines scientific research in cognitive psychology with the understanding of economic decisions and how these are reflected in market prices and marketing choices.

What does system 1 do?

He reads the large text on posters, drives on a deserted road, notices that one object is closer than another, turns around if he hears a sudden noise behind him, makes a disgusted face at a horrible image, hates the tone of a hostile voice. System 1 operates automatically, hastily and above all without any voluntary effort.

What does system 2 do?

It does all those actions in which attention determines performance, such as filling in tax returns, driving while keeping left in England, counting how many times the letter appears in a sentence.

Let's take an example: look at the two pictures.

Illusione Muller Lyer

Which segment is longer? This is the famous Muller-Lyer illusion, where the two horizontal segments are the same length. Now your system 2 knows that the two horizontal lines have the same length, but your system 1 still perceives the lower segment as longer. To combat the illusion, you can only memorise that you should not trust the length of a segment when there are arrows attached to it and get out of the illusory pattern (source: The Mind Blog).

Quale strada scelgo? Intuito o ragionamento

System 1 and System 2 in marketing

Precisely because of its emotional and 'hurried' nature, several online marketing and sales strategies leverage the intuitive system and try to evade the deliberative, or rational system (find out how digital persuasion techniques work in the article).

For example, it has been shown that writing "We are running out of stock of this product!" makes people more likely to buy it. This is because our intuition tries to convince us that if we wait too long to buy the product, someone else will do it for us.

In conclusion, let us ask ourselves: who wins between intuition and reasoning? Science currently says that system 1 and system 2 work together most of the time: while intuition produces ideas, reasoning verifies them. However, it is natural to think that in a reality punctuated by fast-paced rhythms, all too often we make decisions based on intuition that lead us to decisions that are inevitably inconvenient.

In this article, Kahneman's theory of system 1 and system 2 is explained.


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