two minds

When conscious attention is diverted, habitual behaviour takes over. Habits are a part of our mind as well, just a different part.

The two minds hypothesis distinguishes a reflective mind from an intuitive mind. The reflective mind does get to control some of our behaviour, but much less than folk psychology would have us believe. Most actions are controlled intuitively, without any awareness of the cognitive processes involved. In this account the reflective mind feels like the all-controlling executive mind to its owner, but this is largely illusory. In reality it competes for control of behaviour with the intuitive mind, often unsuccessfully. Moreover, the two minds have access to different kinds of knowledge: explicit memory for the relective mind and implicit memory for the intuitive mind.

The reflective mind does control some of our behaviour some of the time. However, when the intuitive mind takes charge, which it often does, then the reflective mind only thinks it is in control. In fact, one of the major functions of the reflective mind is confabulation: it convinces us that our choice is based on our politically-correct values, for example, when in fact it may come from a deep, unaknowledged desire to have power.

The distinction between the reflective and intuitive minds is not simply one of conscious and unconscious thinking. The reflective mind cannot be wholly conscious because many preconscious processes affect its content.

Thinking Twice: Two minds in one brain, Jonathan St BT Evans


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