Thinking, Fast and Slow. 4. The associative machine.

Following the schedule of our Reading Calendar

After some introductory chapters that were devoted mainly to get us introduced to the effortful workings of system 2, we begin now a journey to explore the secret world of system 1.

The chapter is very simple and powerful. It introduces us to the concept of mental associations and psychological priming through the presentation of a lot of studies that illustrate the different ways in what priming can work. It is relevant, however, to remind that priming is a disputed area full of suspicion of inaccurate research. From Wikipedia:

Although semantic, associative, and form priming are well established, some longer-term priming effects were not replicated in further studies, casting doubt on their effectiveness or even existence. Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahneman has called on priming researchers to check the robustness of their findings in an open letter to the community, claiming that priming has become a “poster child for doubts about the integrity of psychological research”. Other critics have asserted that priming studies suffer from major publication bias, experimenter effect and that criticism of the field is not dealt with constructively.

The chapter, when explaining association or priming, underlines the unconscious nature of much of what is going on. And has a very clear goal, to make us notice that most of our thoughts and choices are at least influenced by processes and mechanisms which are not only beyond our control but even our awareness.

In short, the kind of idea that you read, are shock at it, fascinated by it and then proceed immediately to forget because is so uncomfortable. I suspect that the whole book will be like this.

One thought on “Thinking, Fast and Slow. 4. The associative machine.

  1. You are right, Carlos. The book is full of not very flattering results about our “rationality” and we forget them very easily..
    Priming is certainly under suspicion. In Twitter you can find this guy called @neuroskeptic who has been collecting evidence of sloppy studies on priming. However, as we’ll see as we keep on reading, priming is not an important element in the development of the main theses of the book, so they are mostly unaffected by the lack of reproductibility of a big deal of priming studies.

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