An Economist article about the work of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, describes how our mindsets warp our decision-making. As a Behavioral Economist he asks us: “What’s up with that mindset?!” through his experiments and writing. Try one of his tests: If you were given £50 and were told that you could ‘keep’ £20 or must ‘lose’ £30—which would you do?
If you are like the participants in Kahneman’s research you would say that you want to keep £20 because “keeping” something feels instantly better than “losing” something–even though the outcomes are identical!
He also shows that it is more threatening to say that a disease kills ‘1,286 in every 10,000 people’, than to say it kills ‘24.14% of the population’, even though the second mention is twice as deadly. Vivid language often overrides basic arithmetic.”
Not too surprising, considering what Ellen Langer has shown us about mindsets and their powerful ability to influence how we live our lives. (See my recent guest blog post, Ellen Langer: Priestess of Possibility.)
How about these findings: “Experimental subjects who have been ‘primed’ to think of money, perhaps by seeing a picture of dollar bills, will act more selfishly. So if someone nearby drops some pencils, these subjects will pick up fewer than their non-primed counterparts.”
His findings mirror the findings of Langer’s work in Counterclockwise, “Even obliquely suggesting the concept of old age will inspire people to walk more slowly—though feeling elderly never crossed their mind, they will later report.”
Kahneman feels that we have a two tiered system of response. The first, “System 1 thinking” explains such non-rational behavior and is what Langer describes as “automatic” thinking—the knee-jerk response we make in the absence of mindful attention.
“System 2”, by contrast, is slow, deliberative and less prone to error. System 2 kicks in when we are faced with particularly complex problems, but much of the time it is all too happy to let the impulsive System 1 get its way.” Ellen Langer would agree with this. She would say that when we cultivate mindful attention that we counteract the bias of our automatic thinking.
It never crossed their minds, but it determined their behavior. No one wants to be the victim of “System 1” thinking, I am quite sure. But if you were told that you could rise above such automatic ways of thinking would you be willing to give it a try?
The reason we act in specific ways is because of the way we think. I use a process of Appreciative Inquiry that helps shed the mindsets that determine behavior and overrides pernicious organizational cultures. The goal: aligning attitude with purpose to achieve one’s potential.
If you would like a complimentary session to discuss how coaching might help you to shed your mindsets, you can schedule a session at the website of Dr. Lynn K. Jones.
P.S. Thanks in advance to anyone who chooses to add their comments to the discussion or wishes to forward the blog link.
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Your Mojo Maven
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment.