To better understand the observations made to start this essay, we will turn briefly to an emerging neuroscientific understanding of the functions and dynamics operating inside our self. We will identify several ways in which we can access the rich sources of expertise that reside inside our head (and body). It only takes thoughtful attention to this personal expertise—Kahneman’s slow thinking.
However, such attention is not easy to maintain in a world filled with stress and challenge. It is to this matter of stress and challenge that we must often turn in considering the sources of personal expertise. And it is to the rich opportunities for finding this personal expertise that we first turn by considering the multiple tiers on which the human mind operates.
The Multi-Tiered Mind
The most important feature to note about the human brain, as it relates to our access to personal expertise, is its multi-tiered structure. Apparently, we are able to do many things at the same time—some of these things being quite conscious and deliberate and other things being semi-conscious or unconscious and driven by forces that are often outside our conscious control. We seem to be operating at three tiers and each tier provides us with a different kind of information and insight into our own internal world as well as our external world. This diversity of information and insight is a real bonus—and we need to take full advantage of this diversity when navigating a world in which expertise from outside ourselves is often flawed and contradictory.
We will briefly explore the nature and function of each tier—and make use of a metaphor that we are borrowing from our use of the stove located in our kitchen. We should probably offer a correction at this point, because the stove we are describing is a bit larger and more elaborately equipped than found in most domestic kitchens—for it has three sets of burners (rather than the usual two sets). We might have to imagine the kitchen located in a fancy restaurant rather than in our home.
This set of burners are where we are focusing our attention when cooking our meal (processing information in our brain). This is the seat of Consciousness, from which we formulate, enact and monitor our verbal communication with other people, our resolution of conflict, our solving of problems—and most important our decision-making processes. Our primary intentional engagement with the outside world (and particularly other people) is managed through the cortical processes engaged via the front burners.
The front burners are also the preferred location for our cooking (processing) of a specific dish (distinctive set of memories). This dish is called Expository Memory. We know now that this is one or two different systems operating in our brains. The second system is called Procedural (or Operational) memory. The expository (or declarative) memory system brings existing memories to bear when addressing new information and when the new information leads us to engage in new behaviors. This is the system that leads to learning and experimentation.Download Article 1K Club