Have you ever done something and afterwards wondered – what made me do that? With all the available information and the ability to upskill and learn so accessible, why do we still make decisions that are not in line with our deeper motivations?

It could be due to the fact that we have significantly different ways of thinking – in our very own brain! Emotions and circumstances also play an influencing role, but internally, there are thinking processes that will arrive at different outcomes before we can even consider the external factors.

Daniel Kahneman often speaks about the difference between thinking fast and thinking slow. He is an Israeli psychologist and economist notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, and behavioural economics.

With Amos Tversky and others, Kahneman established a cognitive basis for common human errors that arise from heuristics and biases, and developed prospect theory.

Prospect Theory, the work for which Kahneman won the Nobel Prize, proposes a change to how we think about decisions when facing risk, especially financial. In 2011, he wrote Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Wikipedia’s introduction offers the following: The book’s main theme is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: “System 1” is fast, instinctive and emotional; “System 2” is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book delineates rational and non-rational motivations or triggers associated with each type of thinking process and how they complement each other, starting with Kahneman’s research on loss aversion. From framing choices to people’s tendency to replace a difficult question with one which is easy to answer, the book summarises several decades of research to suggest that people have too much confidence in human judgement.

Whilst his academic contributions speak vastly on the subject, a high-level overview is that when we think fast, we make superficial decisions that need to be made quickly at the moment. These are our most common decisions, from which route to take whilst driving in our cars to how we respond to people in our day. Life is so often rushed, and with the stressful environments in which we live, it’s not hard to understand why.

Where fast thinking is generally reactive, slow thinking is deeper and more reflective. We apply this approach either by choice or by obligation. When fast thinking cannot help us, we have to slow down and consider deeper questions – exploring our motivations and intentions with greater observation.

This could be why we sometimes regret decisions because we reacted or thought too quickly. When it comes to decisions that have big consequences, it’s valuable to slow down and take some time to ruminate and consult with people we trust to help us make the best decision with the information we have at the time.

At WellsFaber, our goal is to help you discern when to think fast, and when to think slow.