Here’s a simple riddle. A bat and a ball together cost Rs. 110. If the bat costs Rs. 100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

The answer is easy, right? A lot of people will instantly say the ball costs Rs. 10. Simple subtraction.

But think again. Is that the right answer? How can the ball cost 10 rupees if the cost of the bat is 100 more than the ball and they together cost 110? Confused? The answer is Rs. 5. Got it?

This simple example, taught in business schools, is the best example of the systems of thinking our brain utilizes. A complex organ developed over millennia, the human brain still remains a mystery to an extent. The way the human brain thinks, stores information, and processes it is marvelous.

What Are The Systems Of Thinking?

One of the theories to understand how the brain works is the systems of thinking framework. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, human decision-making is driven by two separate systems: fast and slow, or System 1 and System 2 thinking. In his groundbreaking work on decision-making, Thinking, Fast And Slow, Kahneman says these two systems are two different ways in which the human brain reacts to threats and forms thoughts.

According to the systems thinking approach:

System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.

The riddle above is one of the great systems thinking examples to figure out how the brain functions. It can help us understand the difference between system 1 and system 2 thinking. The first answer is brought to you by system 1. It is a fast, intuitive, and automatic approach that our brains select. Automatic being the keyword, this approach is responsible for all the visual illusions you have encountered.

By choosing the first one from system 1 and system 2, the brain makes quick and intuitive decisions. The second system out of system 1 and system 2 is the mind’s slower, more analytical mode where the decisions are ruled by logic and reasoning.

Understanding the systems of thinking is necessary for two purposes: to ensure you survive the stress and strains of the coronavirus pandemic raging across the world. Your response to the crisis has to be a mix of both quick and intuitive system 1 thinking and a more considered and logical system 2 approach.

It’s also a useful approach in today’s demanding corporate world where productivity and efficiency are the buzzwords. Harappa Education’s Reasoning Logically course helps you learn about the systems of thinking and the power of the systems thinking approach from leading behavior scientists, business scholars, educators, and trainers.


Explore topics such as the Meaning of HeuristicWhat is Logical Reasoning & How our Mind Works from our Harappa Diaries blog section and hone strategically thinking skills in business.

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