Three Five Seven – # 225

Three, five, and seven
3 5 7
By Stan Shapiro MD, Grand Lodge Education Officer G.L. of MN

“The Power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.” Lao Tzu

Thinking About How We Think

As Masons one way we can improve ourselves is to think about how we think. There is a time for using our intuition to make rapid decisions and time for thinking carefully and considering other options before we decide. Thinking about how we think can help us in our journey for self-discovery and self improvement.

In the book Thinking Fast……Slow Daniel Kahneman describes the advantages and disadvantages of intuitive thinking (fast thinking or what he labels as system 1) and slow thinking or system 2. This book was highly recommended by several organizations as one of the best nonfiction books of 2011. The book’s aim is “to present a view of how the mind works— and the marvels as well as the flaws of intuitive thinking.” We can marvel at the intuitive decisions of the professional physician or chess player and remember times when we jumped to a conclusion which we later discovered was wrong. However “It is easier to recognize other people’s mistakes than our own.” The book describes how system1 and 2 inter-react as our mind thinks; for example one of the functions of system 2 is to monitor the errors in system 1.

Intuitive decisions are based on our coherent interpretation of what is going on in the world at any given moment and involve automatic mental activities based on our perceptions and previous memory. Most of our decisions need to be made quickly and intuitively because there is not time to consider all options. For example in driving our car or reacting quickly to avoid what we perceive as danger. Intuitive decisions are made with simplified shortcuts and are susceptible to errors especially when they are made with uncertainty, hidden biases and/or influenced by strong emotions such as affection, fear or hatred and can result in irrational conclusions and/or behavior.

Slow thinking is often impractical for routine decisions because it takes practice and time. System 2 allows us to recognize our biases and/or illusions we might otherwise ignore. We often do not consider all the information we need when we use system2. Ideally when we think slowly, we challenge our beliefs and conclusions, consider other possible perspectives and/or other people’s views before we react. Using System 2 we look for the shades of gray and carefully evaluate all information to be sure it is credible, significant and accurate and we look for our hidden values and goals. Slow thinkers learn from their mistakes, become aware of their prejudices, and avoid jumping to conclusions and snap judgments.

As Freemasons the attributes of slow thinking can help us to recognize bias and clarify what we see, read and hear in our search for the truth, fellowship and brotherhood.

Words To Live By: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin

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