TOK Reasoning Quiz

Fear is good. It helps protect us. But getting risk wrong — worrying more than the evidence says we need to, or not as much as the evidence says we should — produces stress and leads to unhealthy choices for ourselves and for society. We do have to fear fear itself: too much, or too little. Understanding why the gap exists between our fears and the facts is the first step toward managing the potential risk of risk misperception, and making healthy choices for ourselves, our families, and our communities

The interesting thing is, the way you answered the questions in the first quiz predicts the choices you made in the second. If you answered the first 3 questions with the easy, obvious, but WRONG answers, you were far more likely to accept less money now rather than wait to get more money later. On the other hand, if you were willing to go a little slower with the first three questions and make the mental effort necessary to figure out the correct answers, you were more likely to have chosen the greater albeit delayed benefits in the second quiz. In other words,a slower more patient critical thinker is more likely to make better decisions!

Now what does all this have to do with patience? Careful critical thinking takes work. It takes time, and it literally also takes calories, to “pay” attention, and the brain has developed a faster more intuitive sort of thinking to minimize those costs. This sort of cognition was originally labeled System One in “Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate?” a famous paper by Keith Stanowich and Richard West. System One cognition is faster, more intuitive, and relies on emotions and instincts and subconscious heuristics and biases - mental shortcuts - for quickly turning partial information into our judgments and decisions. Back when calories were harder to come by, and split-second decisions could mean the difference between life and death, this sort of decision making probably had important survival advantages.

System Two is slower, more purposeful conscious careful critical analysis. It’s the sort of cognition required to come up with the correct answers to Quiz One. In fact we use both systems all the time. But between the two, System One often has the greater influence.

Now suppose you have to make a judgment or decision about some risk (a risk that isn’t immediate, like a snake crawling up your leg or somebody pointing a gun at your head): Is it dangerous? How dangerous is it? What should you do about it? Most of us will instinctively rely on System One to come up with a quick call that may seem right, may feel right, but which may be wrong. Dangerously wrong. Instead, we need to remember that System One, the kind of thinking thatGerman psychologist Gird Girgerenzer calls ‘fast and frugal’, is sometimes prone to error that can lead to dangerous choices and behaviors. If we remember that…that the way we think about risk can be risky all by itself…we can protect ourselves by simply taking a little more time and devoting a bit more effort to think things through.

Patience is more than one of the seven heavenly virtues. It’s a really good way to keep ourselves safer and healthier.