There is no Fast and Slow Thinking, Nor Quick Learning

The founding weakness with Kahneman’s model of Minds 1 and 2 is there is no immediate developing mind. In fallible human learning there is no quick and slow, most learning is developmental. More so, Kahneman’s model is brain-centric and this is not how we learn or think. This is no surprise emerging from a behavioural economist. But Safety loves this model because it suits a binary behaviourist worldview ( ). And it sells.

Recent research by a collection of scientists ( demonstrates that the idea of fast and slow learning is an attribution. In safety behaviourism ( we find signals that suit Kahneman’s binary theory and then match them up as proof of the 1&2 assumption.

Similarly, in Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) claims are made that BBS ‘works’. All BBS does is provide a narrative for binary thinking, inputs and outputs in a simplistic framework, so that people’s behaviours can fit some neat simplistic assumption. When you are anchored uncritically to behaviourism, you make all paradigms fit ( When your ideology is zero, why would you want to know about ‘wicked problems’? (

The idea of ‘fast and slow thinking’ is a myth ( The reality is that all learning is lifelong (Claxton – ) and never ceases and even people who have those magical 10,000 hours  still speak of ‘learning’ and ‘development’. Indeed, the attitude that one ‘arrives’ at a position of ultimate expert is bad for you. Especially, when risk is about uncertainty and faith and, there is no prediction for fallible people and systems.

Any language of ‘futureproofing’ is nonsense. Any language of ‘predictive analytics’ is delusional. Fallibility is not the enemy ( Harm and injury are not evil.

The development of all heuristics is slow, gradual and over time, becomes embodied ( ). That is, what is learned is built into muscle memory not brain memory. In this way all heuristics ( are used for fast and efficient thinking but they are not generated by a computer-like brain. They are generated by embodied emotions and feelings. This is why in SPoR, we speak of how e-motions have their own force or energy to make us move. This is the foundation of all motivation.

In SPoR, we use the metaphor of a speedometer to convey the way the embodied human mind works (See Figure 1. One Brain Three Minds):

Figure 1. One Brain Three Minds

There is endless Anthropological and Cultural research to support such a model.

In SPoR, we also use the model of embodied thinking as Head, Heart and Gut thinking. This too is supported by endless research. Some neuroscientists even refer to the Heart and Gut as the ‘second’ and ‘third’ brain.

Why does this matter for risk and safety?

Anchoring to the 1930s theory of behaviourism helps no one in risk and safety. BBS is the brutalist ( cousin of zero. Both go with each other and lead organisations to believe that policing injury rates and regulation define safety. Similarly, some in BBS believe that they some hold on what culture is using BBS ( ). They don’t.

I couldn’t think of a worse paradigm to tackle the challenges of culture than the delusions of BBS or engineering ( Most of this stuff has no comprehension of even the basics of culture. Engineers and BBS are good examples of sources NOT to consult about culture. Similarly, behavioural economists on the nature of personhood, Mind and the phenomenon of ‘being’. Indeed, these are good examples of safety culture silences (

One you jettison the binary myths of Kahneman, behaviourism and engineering you can begin to better understand human decision making ( Then one begins to understand that Risk Makes Sense.

If you want to know more about human judgment and decision making or any of the SPoR Methods for tackling risk (, contact Matt Thorne for a demo ( or for an in person demo.


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