“we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.”
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

It is not unusual for an interviewer to make a decision on a candidate in the first 2 minutes of an interview and then spend the rest of the time finding the evidence to prove that snap judgement right. Here is why….

We have one mind but two systems.

  • System 1 thinks first, fast and intuitively but is often flawed in its thinking.
  • System 2, thinks more slowly and rationally, and is capable of cautioning and reasoning with System 1 BUT is inherently lazy.

Our minds look for cognitive ease in new situations, which quite simply means we look for ease when processing something new, and that ease or alternatively (cognitive) distress, can impact how positively or negatively we feel about a new situation or person.

To find cognitive ease in new situations, our System 1 will look for familiarity and associations with past experiences, and already assembled patterns and ideas. Here lies the problem; System 1, without our knowledge discounts any irregularity in a situation, rejecting ambiguity, to allow for association with past and familiar patterns. So in essence an active coherence seeking System 1, will provide suggestions and solutions to an undemanding System 2, normally based on a number of flawed assumptions. A lazy system 2 won’t challenge the assumptions or gut feel of System 1 and instead endorses many of the intuitive beliefs which reflect System 1’s impressions. So when a new situation appears similar to previous situations, the individual may regress back to the state of mind that they have felt or behaved before. This can lead to bias and poor decisions on candidates during selection.

Understanding how our minds work and being aware that our rushed or intuitive decisions could in fact be flawed is key to not allowing ourselves to make poor choices or judge candidates too quickly. Trying to deliberately engage our System 2 by thinking more slowly and rationally is crucial during the interview process. As is recognizing that engaging System 2 may cause us moments of cognitive distress and that’s okay; it’s part and parcel of effective decision making.

Ideas of Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011). 

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