Advancing theorizing about fast-and-slow thinking

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 46:e111 (2023)
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Abstract

Human reasoning is often conceived as an interplay between a more intuitive and deliberate thought process. In the last 50 years, influential fast-and-slow dual-process models that capitalize on this distinction have been used to account for numerous phenomena – from logical reasoning biases, over prosocial behavior, to moral decision making. The present paper clarifies that despite the popularity, critical assumptions are poorly conceived. My critique focuses on two interconnected foundational issues: the exclusivity and switch feature. The exclusivity feature refers to the tendency to conceive intuition and deliberation as generating unique responses such that one type of response is assumed to be beyond the capability of the fast-intuitive processing mode. I review the empirical evidence in key fields and show that there is no solid ground for such exclusivity. The switch feature concerns the mechanism by which a reasoner can decide to shift between more intuitive and deliberate processing. I present an overview of leading switch accounts and show that they are conceptually problematic – precisely because they presuppose exclusivity. I build on these insights to sketch the groundwork for a more viable dual-process architecture and illustrate how it can set a new research agenda to advance the field in the coming years.

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