My native language

Severed head I’m currently reading Nudge, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. It says many psychologists and neuroscientists agree that we humans have two general types of thinking, intuitive and rational. Also known as automatic and reflective.  When dodging a ball thrown at you, getting nervous when your aeroplane hits turbulence or smiling when you see a cute cat the automatic system is working.  When doing some mathematics, or writing a blog post, you (mostly) use reflective.  Speaking native, or “first” languages uses the automatic.  Speaking a second language usually uses reflective.

I realised that having tinkered with computers heavily almost my entire life, a lot of my “computer skills” have shifted into the intuitive, automatic systems.  I obviously (hopefully) use the rational systems a great deal, but underlying it is definitly intuition – the gut feeling of where to go next to solve the problem.  I regularly come up seemingly random avenues of investigation that lead to gold and I couldn’t say with any certainty why I thought of it.  I’m assuming this is the same for most computer geeks (and chess geeks, cooking geeks, music geeks etc. :).  It’s become a native language for us.

I don’t think the average rational system can easily deal with very complex problems.  It’s great for some more-linear concentrated work or planning, but for big stuff with lots of parts – hard work.  I think I usually research and “pre-process” a bunch of material around a problem using my rational system, then my automatic system gets to work mulling over the bigger picture.  Then when I’m making rational decisions about it, I’m heavily informed by the intuition. Or sometimes just when I’m showering.

Anyway, not sure where I was going with this other than a “aren’t I great” blog post. The summary would be, don’t rely on your rational systems so much. Give the intuitive some good mulling time. And shower regularly.

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