Risk Intelligence, Thinking and Decision Making
‘This is fine as far as it goes, but it leaves a crucial third kind of thinking out of the picture. This is the meditative, creative mode of thought that the psychologist Guy Claxton calls the “undermind” in his thought-provoking book, Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind. It is much slower than Kahneman’s System 2, and works away quietly in the background, below the level of conscious awareness, helping us to register events, recognize patterns, make connections and be creative. This is the kind of thought that can bubble away beneath the surface for weeks or even months, quietly turning over a problem and looking at it from different perspectives, before suddenly thrusting a solution into consciousness in that exciting Eureka! moment.”
Both Evans and Claxton know that humans make decisions triarchically. The idea that humans think triarchically has been a part of every tradition (humanist and religious) for thousands of years and is a key to many psychologies (eg. Freud and Jung see: https://vimeo.com/156926212 ). Unfortunately, the Kahneman construct is binary, perhaps this is why it appeals so much to the fundamentalist mindset so popular in risk and safety (eg. zero harm https://safetyrisk.net/triarchic-thinking-and-risk/ ).
“I think Claxton is onto something in claiming that the mind possesses three different processing speeds, not two. Think of it as a kind of “cognitive sandwich” if you like. The top half of the bun is the lightning fast System 1 identified by Kahneman, the world of snap judgments and rapid heuristics. The bottom half of the bun is the snail-paced undermind identified by Claxton, where thoughts cook slowly in the back oven. Both of these are unconscious processes, operating below the level of conscious awareness. The hamburger in the middle is conscious thought, Kahneman’s System 2.”
I presented a triarchic mode of decision making in my first book Risk makes Sense and in this video:
Why does this matter?
Unfortunately, a binary construct about thinking leaves only an either or assessment of risk. Risk then becomes a ‘black and white’ ‘choice’, either speed 1 or speed 2. This is simple binary choice certainly appeals to those who want to see risk as simple and black and white but the evidence from many in psychology demonstrates otherwise (eg. read Norrtranders The User Illusion) (https://safetyrisk.net/the-triarchic-mind-risk-and-safety/). What is missing is all the grey inbetween the black and white, or as Claxton calls the ‘undermind’ – or the filing in the cognitive sandwhich. The triarchic construct changes the whole way we understand cause and decision making and, opens up a greater tolerance for inbetween thinking in the way humans make decisions. In turn, this leads to less blame and naivety in causality, the great attraction of reductionist risk and safety. Risk and safety is much better off when things are grey than black and white. There is much less attribution, projection and closed mindedness in a triarchic model than a binary one.