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What Intelligence Tests Miss 3: The Reflective, Algorithmic, and Autonomous Mind


Chapter 3 makes a distinction between type 1 and type 2 processing, after which Stanovich makes the case that type 2 processing should be split further into the algorithmic mind (intelligence) and the reflective mind (rationality). It’ll be interesting to read through Thinking Fast and Slow to see if that book bears out the differences at all. I’m wondering if the distinction makes that much sense. It’s true that some people apply their type 2 thinking processes differently than others, but I don’t know if that means that we should consider it a different mind in as fundamental sense as the conscious mind and unconscious mind are different. Still, it is very useful at least to see that the propensity to think rationally is relatively independent of the strength of a person’s algorithmic mind.

Kindle Notes:

The defining feature of Type 1 processing is its autonomy. Type 1 processes are termed autonomous because: 1) their execution is rapid, 2) their execution is mandatory when the triggering stimuli are encountered, 3) they do not put a heavy load on central processing capacity (that is, they do not require conscious attention), 4) they are not dependent on input from high-level control systems, and 5) they can operate in parallel without interfering with each other or with Type 2 processing (330).

Type 1 processes are sometimes termed the adaptive unconscious in order to emphasize that Type 1 processes accomplish a host of useful things-face recognition, proprioception, language ambiguity resolution, depth perception, etc. -all of which are beyond our awareness (334).

Type 2 processing contrasts with Type I processing on each of the critical properties that define the latter. Type 2 processing is relatively slow and computationally expensive-it is the focus of our awareness (337).

In short, the reflective mind is concerned with the goals of the system, beliefs relevant to those goals, and the choice of action that is optimal given the system’s goals and beliefs. It is only at the level of the reflective mind that issues of rationality come into play. Importantly, the algorithmic mind can be evaluated in terms of efficiency but not rationality (428).

the types of cognitive propensities that these thinking disposition measures reflect are: the tendency to collect information before making up one’s mind, the tendency to seek various points of view before coming to a conclusion, the disposition to think extensively about a problem before responding, the tendency to calibrate the degree of strength of one’s opinion to the degree of evidence available, the tendency to think about future consequences before taking action, the tendency to explicitly weigh pluses and minuses of situations before making a decision, and the tendency to seek nuance and avoid absolutism (442).

Theorists often define intelligence in ways that encompass rational action and belief but, despite what these theorists argue, the actual measures of intelligence in use assess only algorithmic-level cognitive capacity. No current intelligence test that is even moderately used in practice assesses rational thought or behavior (449).

To put it simply, the concept of rationality encompasses two things (thinking dispositions of the reflective mind and algorithmic-level efficiency) whereas the concept of intelligence-at least as it is commonly operationalized-is largely confined to algorithmic-level efficiency (465).

Substantial empirical evidence indicates that individual differences in thinking dispositions and intelligence are far from perfectly correlated. Many different studies involving thousands of subjects have indicated that measures of intelligence display only moderate to weak correlations (usually less than .30) with some thinking dispositions (for example, actively open-minded thinking, need for cognition) and near zero correlations with others (such as conscientiousness, curiosity, diligence)” (472).


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