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I have been juggling a lot since the launch. Keeping all the social media on board can be tricky, especially since this project is an experiment.
Historically using stories—ones that engage rapid, rules of thumb thinking first and create a counterintuitive reaction—has been a way to teach people complex social lessons.
Can it be used to teach them complex scientific lessons? That is what Consider the Facts hopes to find out. To do that, we need some tools. That is why we need your help.
Consider the Facts wants to answer a basic question: Can using a modern, positive fable move people to utilize more of their slow deliberative thinking in order to engage complex problems?
Aesop’s fables, Christ’s parables and Kipling’s Just-So Stories all used the method of presenting complex ideas within a paradoxical story: “the tortoise is faster than the hare?”, “the Samaritan is good?” or “the alligator gave the elephant its trunk”?
“Really? Is that true? Let me think about that.”
All these stories make people stop using their rapid System 1 thinking (as discussed by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow) and utilize their System 2 as they reorient their rules of thumb to reintegrate a new view of the world surrounding them.
“I see, under some circumstances the hare could be slower than the tortoise. Good to know.” “We should not prejudge people because sometimes ‘bad’ people will do good things. Good to know.” “No way did the alligator pull the elephant’s nose and make it long. But I wonder how the trunk did form?”
In particular, the framing of Kipling’s stories actually invites deeper examination of scientific problems, not just social ones. It is this particular process that Consider the Facts will attempt to explore – can we move people to think deeply and slowly about science, not just social norms?
Scientists are trained to use slow thinking as a necessary part of their job. I cannot read any paper without dropping into System 2 thinking in order to deeply examine the data: “Do those numbers really add up?” “Does that figure actually show what the paper discusses?” “Do their procedures actually produce the results? Do the conclusions match what was described?”
System 1 thinking would read the abstract and come up with “Cancer is cured” or “Fats cause high cholesterol”. Sound familiar?
That is because most of our mainstream approaches that move information around use System 1 methods. That is why headlines are so important. Most people live in a System 1 world.
That makes sense.You had better know what to do instantly when confronted with a lion. Or wonder if that plant is good to eat. In a stable environment, System 1 thinking does a pretty good job of simulating the world. It’s good enough.
But in our complex, rapidly changing world, things are different. Our social environment is not stable. Changing technology destroys rules of thumb. System 1approaches are maladaptive, They lead people away from reality, they put people into Cargo Cult Worlds whose simulation of reality is so poor as to be dangerous.
Their rules of thumb no longer work. This results in the sort of future shock described by Toffler. People can see that their rules of thumb do not seem to be working. Most, instead of dropping into System 2 and working things out, refuse to integrate any more information at all. They refuse to use System 2 in a way to move forward effectively.
Research shows that giving people more facts does not move them towards deliberative thinking. In truth, many people retreat even further into their Cargo Cult worlds, ignoring or rationalizing away any facts that contradict their rules of thumb. They will actually forget facts if those facts contradict their Cargo Cult World.
Shouting at them or lecturing them actually produces the opposite reaction from what is desired.
Perhaps telling them a story will.