Monday, September 25, 2017

Using Intuitive and Deliberate Learning in Story Lessons - Tip #150

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

I have often proposed in my books, blogs and presentations the idea of integrating stories in learning design. You’ll find several tips in this blog alone citing many studies affirming the effectiveness of stories in helping people learn.

In this tip, something got me reflecting about how learning is about decisions and thinking, and that stories have an even deeper influence in the way we think, act and learn than we originally assumed.

Two Operating Systems in the Brain

I have been reading Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who was awarded a Nobel laureate for his work in economics and decision making.

In his book, Kahneman discusses the two systems at work in our brains: the automatic System 1 and the effortful System 2.

System 1 is fast, unconscious, and quick. It bases thinking and actions from experiences and survival instincts. Though impulsive or reactive, most of the time these thoughts are correct.

System 2 is generally slower and more deliberate; however, it is very useful when we are presented with more complex problems that require analytical thought or deep thinking.

System 1 allows us to “make sense of a complex world” by creating “emotionally coherent stories from, and even causal relationships among, the facts before us … using associative memory to interpret according to familiar frames and past experience.” It's fast thinking that prevents analysis paralysis.

But System 1 come with some flaws. It jumps to conclusions based on a few facts and is prone to narrative fallacy, belief bias, substitution, and other errors of intuitive thought. Hence, System 2 puts System 1 in check. According to Kahneman:
Intuition and Thoughtful Thinking

Some people might see intuition and thoughtful thinking as two opposite sides of the brain, often “fighting” to gain dominance in decision making. This isn’t the case.

Kahneman says “Systems 1 and 2 are inseparable.” In fact, they need to work together. System 2’s explicit beliefs and deliberate choices are based on System 1’s impressions and feelings. When System 1 encounters an “anomaly” or a “surprise”, System 2 takes charge, overriding automatic reactions by having the last say. Together, the two systems operate to minimize effort and maximize performance.

What We Should Experience and Try

After reading Kahneman’s book, I realized a few things:
  • Most learning are aimed at deliberate thinking and ignore intuitive thinking. That’s why learning becomes so hard and people would rather not learn or go into learning mode. In LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report, L&D pros are are still sticking to in-person classroom setting, despite learners’ demand for more modern, experiential formats.
  • We tend to ignore intuitive judgement in our design because it is loose, informal and others may call it a "touchy-feely" type of learning. But, Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report shows that modern learners view learning as an “experience.” They want training to be experiential, one that relies on simulations, case studies and flipped classrooms rather than lectures.
  • Experience and research tell me that in today's world, we better make learning faster, easier and helpful; otherwise, learners do not desire to "learn." With their short attention spans and busy, on-the-go lifestyles, modern learners clamor for “point of need” learning and “just in time” training.
Simple Tip to Engage System 1 and System 2

The next time you cover, present or design a factual content, ask: "What is the intuitive response to this?" Ask your learners the question: "What comes to your mind quickly as we speak of this fact, for example, "OSHA regulations?" Over and over again -- we have tested and researched this -- the learner quickly jumps into using their System 1 thinking to learn your System 2 content. Add a deep dive exercise to challenge them to think critically of the right actions to take, making Systems 2 work for the learner.

You Might Also Be Interested In

Tip #41 - How to Weave Hard Facts and Emotions into your eLearning Lessons
Tip #99 - Changing Behavior by Advancing Experience and Stories
Tip #103 - Change Learners' Minds By Changing the Stories They Tell
Tip #140 - Your Brain Prefers Interactive Stories, Not Lectures


Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) by Daniel Kahneman
Essay: Behavioral Science and Scienter in Class Action Securities Fraud Litigation (2013) by Ann Morales Olazábal
Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report
LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report
Meet the Modern Learner (Infographic) (2014)

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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