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According to Behavioural Economics that we mentioned in the previous post, human brain has two operating systems. System 1, which manages our instinct, intuition and feelings, and System 2 that makes “rational” thoughts.

 

Although it may sound strange, in most of the cases, System 1 determines our decisions, while System 2 simply rationalizes these decisions and intervenes whenever there is a big uncertainty.

To make it more clear, I will tell you a story. About 20,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, people were living in very harsh conditions. Full of parasites and diseases, under the direct threat of predators, they were constantly looking for food using very basic tools. But they also had a very important help. Their brain had tripled vs 100,000 years ago.

The man of that era had to survive in a very hostile environment, taking daily decisions of life or death, and indeed very quickly. Some were empirical (ie. get protected from the cold in a cave), other instinctive (ie. to fight or run when a wild animal approached), while some, more complex, were learned over time (ie. whether snow marks came from a deer or a wolf). As there was usually no time for extensive analysis and evaluation, decisions that may required complicated thinking, were necessarily simplified in quick emotional judgments (for example, judging whether he could trust a stranger who was approaching).

I guess you’ll wonder how all these have anything to with the way we decide today. As far as our brain capacity is concerned, during Ice Age we could say that it reached its highest ever. Since then, it has shrunk by around 10%. This, of course, does not mean that we have become less intelligent, since there is no proven correlation between volume and cognitive capacity. However, after 20,000 years and so many sophisticated tools, we remain inherently at the same level of intelligence as the cave man.

At the same time though, we have retained the same critical ability to think. And the way we think has not really changed. Most of our decisions remain fast and instinctive, influenced by our emotions and experiences. Judging from a distance, if we can trust a person may be less important today, but we still judge on the basis of emotion, not only faces but brands too.

 

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