Dual process theories: what they are and how they explain the human mind

Thought. Raonar. Learn. We are constantly processing information and with it our brains are functioning in different ways in order to stay alive, subsist, and act adaptively in the environment. But how do we do it? Some theories in this regard tell us about a single mechanism or process by which we reason, while others suggest the existence of more than one.

Among the various models and theories that have been developed, in particular in the latter case, we find dual process theories, Name which actually refers to a set of more or less well-known theories about how we handle information, and which we will talk about throughout this article.

    Dual process theories: basic definition

    It is called the dual process theory to general theory, or rather a set of general theories (since we could actually talk about up to a dozen theories), characterized by the consideration that higher cognitive abilities like cognition or reasoning exist resulting not from one but from two basic processes or systemsInteraction allows us to generate thoughts and mental products.

    These two processes have different characteristics in terms of how they process information, the speed at which they do so, or the number and types of resources they use. It should also be noted that it is generally considered that one of the processes or systems is implicit and unconscious while the other processes the information explicitly and feels something voluntary and requires conscious effort on our part. Likewise, our experiences and our biology participate in and modify the ability to perform each of these two processes, so that there are no two people with the same performance or ability.

    It should be noted that the dual process theory we are referring to is based on or focuses on the existence of processes necessary to possess the capacity for reasoning and decision as well as to achieve certain behaviors. However, in the different theories of the existing dual process, we can extrapolate the existence of two processes in different areas, as in the case of apprenticeship or economics, marketing (So ​​it would influence different ways of persuading others) and society.

    The two systems

    The two systems considered from the point of view of the double process theory may vary depending on the type of theory we are talking about, but we can nevertheless consider that, overall, they would be two specific types of systems.

    system 1

    The January system would correspond to what in common parlance, according to Kahneman, we would call intuition. It would be a completely unconscious information processing system, in which the information is worked implicitly and in the background. The performance of this system is fast and requires few resources, running automatically. It does not require logic and uses parallel information processing. It also relies more on the innate association between stimuli and is generally not able to express itself verbally. However, no matter how unconscious he is, he is affected by previous experience and emotions.

    We are faced with a system that allows a quick and almost immediate reaction to the environment, so that it allows us to make decisions that can save our lives. It is the system that allows us to get a first impression of the situation and act accordingly, being more context-based decision making and in our inner nature and not in logic. It is the oldest phylogenetic mechanism, belonging not only to our species but to other animals.

    system 2

    The implementation of this system involves decision making and treatment which requires a conscious and voluntary process. This is what Kahneman identifies with real reasoning. This system is considered to be typically human, being one of the most recent at the phylogenetic level.

    There is a great involvement of the neo-crust. It is logic-based and requires explicit processing, be able to work with abstract and symbolic elements such as language and work in series. It requires a large amount of cognitive resources and time to be able to be used, and allows for conscious analysis and control of thought and behavior.

    While System 2 does not allow an immediate response and in imminent situations may not be quick enough to ensure survival, the truth is that it is very useful to allow reflection on the different courses of action, the implications of each situation and work with more abstract elements. This affects our ability to plan and foresee, as well as to evaluate not only emotionally but also logically the different options.

      The need for two ways of thinking

      These two systems are very different from each other, but it is their combination that makes us who we are. Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, complementing each other to help us survive and adapt to the environment. So try finding a balance between the two is idealAs it pushes for action while making our actions inhibited and modified in order to achieve goals to achieve specific goals.

      Groves and Thompson dual process theory

      We have already indicated that the idea of ​​the existence of an information processing based on two different processes has been used in many fields. One of the best known in the field of psychology is that of Groves and Thompson.

      The dual process theory of these two authors is based on the effects of repeated exposure to stimuli over time, In a perspective based rather on unconscious processes. These authors consider that the repeated experience of a specific event or generated by a stimulation can induce changes in behavior so that it is stimulated or inhibited.

      Specifically, he talks about habituation as the process by which a stimulus loses strength to stimulate in the face of its repeated presentation over time, so that the reaction to the same amount of stimulation was less over time. This process explains the acquisition of a wide variety of automation systems, At the same time it allows the acquisition of complex capabilities when specifying the basic steps for him from a smaller amount of resources. An example could be learning to speak or to walk, and in general also associative processes.

      On the other hand, some stimuli can even cause the repetition of the opposite effect, hence another process called sensitization. In this case, each presentation of the same stimulus had more and more force and to generate greater effects. This will make the stimulus more and more activating for the subject..

      It is common for this process to appear in situations which are emotionally stimulating for the subject and in which some type of motivation arises, as well as when the stimulus in question is of a very high intensity. This can be used, for example, to maintain the alarm level in the face of loud noises which could indicate the proximity of a danger.

      As with the double treatment theory mentioned above, the two processes are not necessarily mutually exclusive but they appear together, adding up to generate a concrete reaction or consequence. However, this dual processing theory differs from the one presented above in that in both cases we would be dealing with processes in the background unconscious, both of which are part of System 1.

      bibliographical references

      • Domjan, M. (2005). Principles of learning and behavior. (5th ed.). Madrid: Thomson.
      • Kahneman, Daniel (2011). Think, Fast and Slow (1st ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
      • Seoane, G .; Valiña, Mª D .; Rodriguez, Mª S .; Martín, M. and feraces, Mª J. (2007). Individual differences in hypothetico-deductive reasoning: importance of flexibility and cognitive skills. Psicothema, vol. 19 (2), 206-211. Available at: http://www.infocop.es/view_article.asp?id=1440

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