Wednesday, 16 October 2013

How do we think?

Some time ago, there was a report about the way we think. I have searched for it, but could not find anything for a link, so I will have to explain what it said.

Traditional thinking says that there are two types of thinking: intuitive and rational.

Rational thinking involves putting a logical set of ideas and reasons for the actions we take, the decisions we make. If someone asks rational people why they have made a certain decisions, they will give you the logical set of steps they have taken to reach their decision. Therefore they can justify it.

Intuitive thinking involves just finding a decision, without a process as to how you got there. If you ask an intuitive person why they made a certain decision, they will not be able to tell you - it just makes sense.

Given that me and my wife have very opposite approaches to this, I know from personal experience that it can be very difficult to mix these two - at the extremes, both sides seem unreasonable to the other. In particular, because of the dominance in western thought of the rational and logical, it can be very hard to explain rationally when an intuitive has made a decision.

The report I referred to challenged this approach. What it argued was that everyone thinks in the same way - intuitively. When you make a decision, you simply reach out and find the answer within you mind.

Then most people put a post-hoc rationalisation on this decision. That is, logical thinkers put the logic and rationalisation onto the decision after they have made it. Intuitive thinkers don't bother. But they both reach their decisions by the same approach - a pseudo-random leap of imagination.

What is significant about this is that the Western dominance of logical, rational thinking processes is suddenly turned upside down. It doesn't mean that logic is irrelevant. It doesn't mean that the logical method or the scientific method is wrong. This post-hoc rationalisation is the important thing for scientific research.

What it does mean is that those who jump to their conclusions, those who cannot provide the logical reason, those who "feel" what the right way is, rather than arguing it logically, are merely reflecting the way that everyone actually makes their decisions.

By rejecting the precedence of rationalism, I think this makes for a stronger role for the paradoxical, for the irrational, for the odd. Because faith is not logical or rational. There are logical and rational reasons for believing, for faith, but somewhere there is also something beyond the rational.

Maybe it is that part that is reflecting the true human nature, the real way we are. I like that idea.

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