THE BLOG

Slow Down Your Thinking

04/03/2014 15:08 GMT | Updated 04/05/2014 10:59 BST

Last week's BBC Horizon documentary focused on the work of Nobel prize-winning researcher, Daniel Kahneman, whose ground-breaking work on the nature of thinking is a fascinating area to explore. He considers that we have two different styles thinking fast and thinking slow.

With 'the best' often being linked to the faster computers, quickest response times and so on that defines modern life you might well imagine that fast thinking is the top dog of thinking - but it turns out fast thinking, although well used, and quick at finding answers is often wrong, and slow thinking is the one we really need to be encouraging.

It's interesting when you read his work, that there's quite an overlap between the idea of the fast system (he calls it system one) and slow system (system two) with the ideas of the unconscious and conscious mind.

There are a number of fascinating research studies, which you'll find detailed in my book Get the life you love NOW, that which I'll explain here to clarify the extraordinary effects caused by difference between the two systems.

The Florida effect

In a very sneaky experiment, students were taken to one room where they filled in a questionnaire: they then had to walk down a hallway to another room where they filled in another questionnaire.

The first questionnaire contained just one of two sets of questions. One set included some words associated with aging, such as 'grey', 'bald', 'wrinkled' and 'Florida', the other didn't.

In actual fact the questionnaires weren't really the focus of the research - all the researchers were really interested in was the speed at which the students walked from one room to another. When they measured the time difference between the two groups the found the ones who had read the questionnaire which contained the 'ageing words' took significantly longer to walk down the hallway from one room to another - this is called is called priming- in this case the students were primed to think about 'aging' and it affected their walking speed - and it is one of the factors that affects the kinds of snap decisions our system 1 brain will make.

Bat and Ball test

Here is another example of priming; this is the famous bat and ball test, originally devised by Professor Shane Fredrick from MIT.

A bat and ball cost $1.10

If the bat costs $1 more than the ball, then what does the ball cost?

If I tell you the answer is not 10 cents, would you believe me?

In this question most people will have worked out that the ball obviously costs 10 cents, and I must be mistaken.

Even when I tell you it really doesn't cost 10 cents, they will often still not believe it.

Let's look at the maths behind this. If the ball did cost 10 cents - as most people think - and the bat was a dollar, the difference between the cost of the bat and ball is 90 cents, but as the question said the difference was $1 and not 90 cents, we can't be correct.

In fact as the total for the two items $1.10, the answer is the ball must cost 5 cents, because then the bat would have cost the remaining $1.05, making the difference between the cost of the bat and the ball being the required $1.

Some people will need to go through this section a few times to be completely convinced of it's correctness. Not because it's complicated math's - it's clearly not - but just because we are noticing a conflict between what we were certain the right answer should be (our trust in system 1, which we doubt is wrong) and how that is 'apparently different' from the real right answer I have just supplied.

System two isn't used as much as system one, because it takes up more time and energy to use and, most of the time, we simply can't be bothered to check things out that we think are true. However you can see from these examples, there are many times when we really need to use system two, to work out what's really going on.

These ideas feature a lot in my work, so I thought I'd provide a few simple steps to put this knowledge into practice. Take time:

  1. To distinguish between what you think is going on and what is really going on
  2. To be Present rather than rushing onto the next moment.
  3. To be able to pause when needed, so we can make better decisions and choices.

I've found these simple but vital skills are the core elements of moving towards a life that you love.

So slow down a bit and see what it can do for you...

Phil Parker is a PhD researcher in Health Psychology, an osteopath, a world-renowned NLP coach, the originator the Lightning Process and the author of 4 books.