John Protzko

Thinking about thinking fast and slow

Posted on | April 14, 2016 | No Comments

Lets say there are two people, Fast and Slow.

You give Slow and Fast the same set of problems.

They answer the entire set of problems the exact same way.

Except, Fast does it quickly and Slow does it slowly.


What does this tell us about the mental processes of Fast and Slow?


In the dual processing literature they wouldn’t respond the same way. That’s the whole point. Fast answers some problems incorrectly because he is relying on heuristics. Slow is getting those problems right, because he is not relying on heuristics.


But that’s not the case here. They have the exact same pattern of results. Not all right, not all wrong. An even distribution, just different speeds.


If these were IQ test items we may say fast is smarter than slow, provided slow takes too long to answer (but again, he’s coming to the same error).

But again, that’s not the case here.

Does this tell us anything?


Let’s add a wrinkle: Fast and Slow are the same person, just answering under different conditions (counterfactuals of one another).

This situation is part of the the evidential bedrock of dual-processing models of moral decision making (e.g. Greene et al., 2008). People answer quicker or slower depending on certain conditions (like depletion, which may not be a thing); but their answers are exactly the same across conditions.


Leave a Reply