Called one of the most influential psychologists of our time, Daniel Kahneman has been appearing in articles from Freakonomics – yes because of a recently released book, Thinking Fast and Slow – and here’s an example:

Q. You recommend the use of checklists in business decision-making to counteract a number of the most common biases – confirmation bias, anchoring, etc. I would like to know what you think of the argument that framing bias (and the associated narrow targets) has an even greater impact – for example, framing strategy as being about beating competitors (with potentially misleading analogies from chess, football, judo etc. used as a guide) or framing the focus of marketing as being on branding (thereby encouraging an inside-out perspective) rather than customers (which would encourage a more outside-in approach), even the focus on shareholder value (rather than broader stakeholder value) which has been linked to short-termism that ultimately isn’t in shareholders best interests? -Jack Springman

A. You are absolutely right – or at least I agree with you! Appropriate framing of the problem that is to be solved is essential to everything that follows. And it is certainly the case that a bad frame of the problem will lead to bad decisions. We may not have emphasized this point sufficiently in the checklist we proposed in the Harvard Business Review earlier this year.

In my own work with self-development and the enlightenment culture technologies I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and observing the behavior of “selves” – the organizing structures in the brain mind that make us behave in the ways we recognize as human and ‘conscious’. I think Kanhemans model of the experiencing vs the remembering selves was both useful, and that it is very instructive when applied to the enlightenment tradition’s models.

He talks about this a bit in this excellent TED video – so, take the time to watch it if you have an interest in the nature of the self, the “ego” as it’s commonly (and typically pejorativly) called in moden ET (enlightenment traditions) ulture, then the minutes you spend watching this video should seem worthwhile – that is, your remembering self will store a story about them being worthwhile which you will occassionaly recall.

Here is a transcript of a relevant part for those who read faster than they watch:

Now, the experiencing self lives its life continuously. It has moments of experience, one after the other. And you can ask: What happens to these moments? And the answer is really straightforward: They are lost forever. I mean, most of the moments of our life — and I calculated, you know, the psychological present is said to be about three seconds long; that means that, you know, in a life there are about 600 million of them; in a month, there are about 600,000 — most of them don’t leave a trace. Most of them are completely ignored by the remembering self. And yet, somehow you get the sense that they should count, that what happens during these moments of experience is our life. It’s the finite resource that we’re spending while we’re on this earth. And how to spend it would seem to be relevant, but that is not the story that the remembering self keeps for us.

So we have the remembering self and the experiencing self, and they’re really quite distinct. The biggest difference between them is in the handling of time. From the point of view of the experiencing self, if you have a vacation, and the second week is just as good as the first, then the two-week vacation is twice as good as the one-week vacation. That’s not the way it works at all for the remembering self. For the remembering self, a two-week vacation is barely better than the one-week vacation because there are no new memories added. You have not changed the story. And in this way, time is actually the critical variable that distinguishes a remembering self from an experiencing self; time has very little impact on the story.

Now, the remembering self does more than remember and tell stories. It is actually the one that makes decisions because, if you have a patient who has had, say, two colonoscopies with two different surgeons and is deciding which of them to choose, then the one that chooses is the one that has the memory that is less bad, and that’s the surgeon that will be chosen. The experiencing self has no voice in this choice. We actually don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences. And even when we think about the future, we don’t think of our future normally as experiences. We think of our future as anticipated memories. And basically you can look at this, you know, as a tyranny of the remembering self, and you can think of the remembering self sort of dragging the experiencing self through experiences that the experiencing self doesn’t need.

(This article on Daniel Kahneman will be continued…)