Why people (but not you) are fooled by social media


“One way to understand this contradiction is through the Nobel prize-winning work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, as explained in Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. They have demonstrated that each of us uses two complementary processes for evaluating information and making decisions. They term these processes System 1 and System 2.

System 1 has evolved for fast thinking; for when it is necessary to respond quickly based on fragmentary information. It is a system designed for “jumping to conclusions” and recalls personal experiences that are associated with strong emotions to construct a plausible storyline. This storyline is then compared to the new information to assess it. System 1 makes almost all of our decisions without our conscious awareness: they are “what my gut tells me.”

System 2 performs slow, reflective, conscious thinking. Because it is conscious, we are aware of making a decision when using System 2 and our conception of our self is necessarily based on our System 2. Despite this, System 2 is invoked only when System 1 fails to construct a storyline from our experiences that resonates with the new information.

The difficulty, in the context of finding reliable information, is that most of our decision-making is hidden from us, because it is performed by System 1. We are aware only of our System 2 decisions, and believe all our decisions are made by reflection and assessing the reliability of information.

When we view others, we notice that many decisions are quick reactions to appeals to emotion or emotional events. We cannot understand why they are blind to the way they are manipulated by unreliable information. When they observe us, they are equally mystified: Why we are blind to our System 1 decisions?

Social media platforms and outlets are in the business of bringing issues into focus by concentrating on individual, personal storylines that appeal to emotion. This engages System 1.”