A Matter of Evolution
Why would the brain function like this? The answer lies in the brain’s evolutionary history. System one is a wiring pattern left over from the grassland creatures from which humanity evolved. Impulsivity and rapid decision making is crucial to the survival of an organism in the wild. As humans evolved, developed cultural norms and language, and molded the environment to fit their needs, the newer regions of the cerebral cortex wired themselves into system two, which excels at self-control and sustained focus. The technological advances of the past two hundred years have changed humanity’s environment faster than evolution can keep up, so all humans retain both sets of neurological wiring. System one is reflective of first reactions and impressions but lacks the focus and attention needed to determine if initial judgments are accurate. When system one is unsure, it kicks the problem back to system two, but at the cost of energy expenditure. The brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body and processing information through system two is a more energy consuming process than information processing through system one, so when given the option the brain will always err on the side of energy conservation regardless of whether or not that leads one to make the right decision. (Kahneman, 2015).
What Kahneman calls The Law of Least Effort has implications in the field of coaching. The brain’s natural impulse to default to system one to conserve energy may explain why a client repeatedly makes impulsive or poor decisions. System one will not relent to system two unless it feels that the energy-sucking intelligence of system two is necessary; the brain conserves energy by limiting one’s intelligence and decision making power. In short, the brain is lazy. In coaching, helping a client understand that this naturally occurring process may lead to impulsive and repeated poor decision making may be the key to developing strategies with the client to raise awareness and work towards implementing habits that override these naturally occurring processes. (Kahneman, 2015)Download Article 1K Club