The Brain has Two Systems

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1)We can see this differentiation across the spectrum, though different researchers and writers use different terminology. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls this System 1 and System 2. Don Norman, in his book Emotional Design, groups this into three groups actually, visceral, behavioral, and reflective. Visceral responses are similar to our gag-reflexes, think about how your body reacts to vomit or blood.

2) Broadly speaking, “Behavior” is driven by System 1 and Reflection is his System 2, though for a deeper understanding, I recommend Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

3)  Thinkers in psychology, like Herbert Simon and industrial design like Donald Norman laid the groundwork for these considerations with ideas like affordances (3a). Now behavioral economists like Dan Ariely and Richard Thaller have added “Choice Architecture” and the “Nudge” to the conversation (3b).

3a) “An affordance is the possibility of an action on an object or environment,” (From Wikipedia). Think about a door handle: a bar across the door usually means “push” while a shorter, vertical bar means “pull.” It is the shape of the object that tells us how we should (probably ) use it. James J. Gibson was the first to write about the concept in psychology referring to everything in a human environment, while authors like Don Norman use the term specifically for designing products that are easy to use. For more, see Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things.

3b) Behavioral Economists study the way humans make decisions and the level to which we are rational decision makers. To learn more about this topic, check out Nudge by Richard Thaller and Cass Sunstein or Predictably Irrational by Dan Airley.

4) Carl Jung argued that certain archetypes were part of a “Collective Unconscious.” This meant that as we evolved, our brains had enough similarities that they used an underlying framework of archetypes to build meaning on top of. Rather than being born with “blank slates” for brains, at a young age we seek things in our environment that we can project these archetypes on to. He, along with Joseph Campbell, who studied mythology across the world, argued that one reason there is so much similarity in religion might be that these archetypes resonate deeply with us. It is very common for a virgin to give birth to a hero.