Dear Dr Love,
The other day, I found that my girlfriend had searched ‘my boyfriend mistakes me for therapist’ on Google, on our shared computer. When I confronted her, she said she was sorry and that it was in the heat of the moment, after an argument. Not sure if I should believe her.
Before I give you my two cents, I need to tell you about fast & slow thinking.
Try to answer the following question, what is 17 x 32? I bet you’re thinking hard, right? You’re probably putting in a lot of effort to calculate the answer; you’re doing it slowly, and you’re having to focus on the problem. Turns out, you’re using the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.
You see for decades, psychologists, neurologists and economists alike thought that most of our decisions were made using thinking similar to mathematical logic. They thought that most of the time, we used what is called system 2 or ‘effortful thinking’. Fundamentally, we assumed ourselves pretty logical thinkers.
However, over time, brain scans and experiments made clearer that there were two types of thinking when we made decisions. Some decisions we make use system 2 thinking, which is effortful and slow. But most of our decisions, are made using system 1 thinking, or intuitive, effortless thinking. Think about knee jerk reactions, brushing your teeth in the morning or even driving. This theory has been around for a while, but it was made popular by the research of behavioural economists Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky in the book ‘Thinking Fast & Slow’.
Though we don’t like to admit it, our brains are pretty lazy; they are constantly trying to conserve energy. So, when making decisions, our brains try to employ system 1 or fast thinking as much as they can. It just makes life easier. Most of the time this fast thinking helps us out. It means we can effortlessly do everyday things like getting dressed in the morning, leaving brainpower to attend to more pressing matters.
But sometimes, this fast thinking means we mess up, especially when we are overloaded with emotion. We do things without really reflecting or taking the time to think. Things like, I don’t know Google “boyfriend mistakes me for therapist”.
The real lesson here is:
a) Congratulations, your girlfriend is human.
b) Stop checking her search history.