[PSYCH-CHALLENGE] Why does the spoon cost RM0.05, but not RM0.10?

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A few days ago, we uploaded this photo onto our Facebook page as an Online Psychology Challenge (http://bit.ly/nasilemakandspoon) for our audiences. So far, we received two different responses: RM0.05 & RM0.10.

So the most crucial question is: WHY are there different responses?

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Because we are thinking either FASTly or SLOWly

Inspired by Daniel Kahneman’s popular book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, we decided to create a similar question to the “baseball bat and ball” question in his book to see if we can get different answers from our audiences, of course it all depends on which thinking mode they are engaged with.

Daniel Kahneman suggested that human beings live with two types of thinking modes, they are named as: System 1 and System 2. (Why name them System 1 and 2? Because it is easier to remember). System 1 is fast and intuitive while System 2 is slower, calculative and it’s more likely to engage with complicated and conscious decision-making process.

One of the famous example in his book would be:

If someone asks 2 + 2 = ?

Number 4 will straightly come to your mind effortlessly. You are engaging with System 1 because it’s an intuitive answer, you didn’t compute it, you didn’t calculate it.

If someone asks 17 x 24 =?

You couldn’t trace any number in your mind, instead you need cognitive efforts to compute and engage in a deliberate calculation. This is system 2.

Why some people get it wrong?

Daniel Kahneman said that the human mind is wired to prefer the easier mode of cognition, rather than the more calculative mode. This might lead to us succumbing to the traps of our intuitive thinking and create erroneous judgments and decisions, even when System 1 is very useful when it comes to situations that require quick mental reflexes. When we were shown the question (the Nasi Lemak that costs RM3.10), the RM0.10 is the distinctive and “outstanding” mark that will first hook itself into your mind. The number is a primed by the question to make us use it as an “anchor” in our calculations, and therefore we base our deductions to find out the cost of the spoon by using the 10 sens. That, is the easy way, and the incorrect way.

(RM3.10 (Nasi Lemak)- RM3.00 (Nasi Lemak) = RM0.10) 

Why some people get it correct?

Some people may experience these similar tricky questions before or some of them managed to resist the intuition and are able to perform a rational calculation, hence they were able to escape from the overconfidence bias (irrational subjective confidence towards personal judgement).

Nasi Lemak costs RM3 more than the spoon (given)

Let the spoon price be X 

X + (X + RM3.00) = RM3.10

2X = RM3.10 – RM3.00

2X = RM0.10

X = RM0.05

If you get the answer, give yourself a hand. Yet, this doesn’t mean that you are always rational all the time, and in the next second, you might fall into the trap of System 1.

Differential Roles of 2 Systems

System 1 and System 2 have different respective responsibilities and roles in our life. When we are performing habitual behaviours like driving on a familiar route, completing the phrase “bread and butter”, answering the question “capital of Malaysia”, our system 1 will take place effortlessly. Thus, we make faster choices, we make faster decisions. Yet, this faster thinking mode is prone to cognitive errors because it helps us to jump to conclusions, even when with limited evidence. We might make conclusions based on our impressions without engaging with deliberate or detailed computation. However, it’s sad to know that we always ‘choose to utilize’ System 1 rather than System 2 because after a long period of using System 2 in our daily lives is cognitively tiring and “ego-depleting” (energy for mental activity is low). Can you imagine a life in which you need to evaluate and consider each and every decision thoroughly? It must be a boring & tiring life.

The discovery of System 1 has portrayed fully the whole picture of human irrationality which is a sad but true reality and it’s very very hard for us to keep ourselves (sometimes) from making irrational or stupid decisions. Because of System 1, we are exposed to an “anchoring effect” which we will make subsequent judgements or decision after being exposed to an “anchor”. (Eg: we tend to estimate a higher percentage / number to a question when we were initially exposed to a higher number from a lucky wheel). We are also vulnerable to “availability heuristics” that leads us to provide answers based on some recent and available information that we encountered previously. (Eg: we will rate our city more dangerous if we are able to recall a few recent crimes in our city vividly.)

There are a lot of things to know about how our mind or cognitive process works, and equally, there still are unknowns that lurk in this field, such that we are still not completely sure how our mind works. If you want to know more about what is inside your mind, or at least provide yourselves with a grasp of the inner workings of our cognitive processes, I strongly recommend you to read this book, this book will illustrate you a picture of your mind!

Also, a intro video sharing about “Thinking Fast & Slow”:

Author information:

Gary Yap just finished his degree of Psychology at HELP University. He loves arts and passionate in making videos. To realize his responsibility as a Psychology student, he started MY Psychology with his friends in 2014. Due to the public misconceptions towards Psychology,he hopes to make Psychology more approachable and understandable to public via developing MY Psychology as an integrated platform where people can learn in multiple ways and also exchange opinions about Psychology issues in an open-minded manner.

Editor information:

Hew studied at HELP (love that school), is a Psych grad, and currently works at a non-consequential job for non-consequential wages. Talk with him about literature or the arts (visual and audio), or just anything related to pop culture and he will spazz with geekish excitement (please talk to him, he is lonely and needs help). He lives in Malaysia. 

Posted in Psychology articles and tagged , .

Gary Yap, a HELP graduate is currently pursuing Master of Clinical Psychology in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). He loves arts and passionate in making videos. He believes that Psychology knowledge shouldn't be limited to the professionals or students in the field, and it should go beyond and expand connection to general public. To realize his responsibility as a Psychology student, he started MY Psychology with his friends in 2014. Due to the public misconceptions towards Psychology,he hopes to make Psychology more approachable and understandable to public via developing MY Psychology as an integrated platform where people can learn in multiple ways and also exchange opinions about Psychology issues in an open-minded manner. Currently, he is planning to highlight what he read from courses and books and process them into bit-size information in short and bite-size article.

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