Television Favors Fast Thinking, Print Rewards Slow Thinking: So Why Use Television Debates to Pick a President?

The prize-winning book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahnemanm describes two ways of thinking:

Fast thinking operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort.

Slow thinking gives attention to effortful mental activities and can override the emotional impulses of thinking fast.


  1. Barnard Collier says

    Dear Jack,

    Over the years I’ve known many interesting and successful thinkers and kept track of whose thinking was fast, slow, and/or investigative.

    “Fast thinking” can mean several things that don’t necessarily have to do with successful decision making.

    It can mean:

    The fast thinker can absorb certain information, process it with dispatch and a high degree of accuracy, understand it, critique it, respond to it about as well as about 70,000,000 other people worldwide.

    The fast thinker can, with alacrity, call on many practiced mental functions and tricks to increase the velocity of decision making, or slow it down as a tactical or cautionary measure.

    The fast thinker makes many more methodical connections per nanosecond than a slower thinker can, which results in perspectives framed faster.

    Fast thinking does imply fast decision-making but it does not necessarily imply fast or successful action.

    “Slow thinking” may simply be precise and methodical but in many cases the cogitation results in almost the same decisions as the fast thinker comes to quicker.

    Slow thinkers often rely on their intuition (“gut” feelings that skip several methodical/logical steps in the reasonable resolution process) to speed up their responses when they must compete with naturally fast thinkers. [Medical and business schools are rife with slow/fast competitions that encourage the gut instincts.]

    “Investigate” thinking requires a nature that will dig and dive for its own information, question and verify the information found by both themselves and others, and take little or nothing for granted. Successful private eyes, investigative reporters, police, and historians are often both methodical (“slow”) and investigative in varying proportions.

    For a long time, I thought Isaac Asimov, the science and fiction writer, was the most methodical, investigative and the fastest thinker I’d ever encountered, but he denied it. “I am not a fast thinker,” he insisted. “I’m a fast under-stander.”

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