Intuitive and Rational thinking: Room for both

In the brave new world of holism and systemic thinking we need to draw on whatever tools the human body has at its disposal. Rational thinking certainly plays a role but so does intuitive thinking. Once upon a time and probably still in many instances subjectivity was frowned upon when writing essays at university and students would be penalised severely for it, but that tendency, from my experience, is less obvious today, although of all faculties it would be science that upholds the tradition of total objectivity more intently than the others. Is there room in science for art? Could science benefit from such as relationship? The following paper will lead your mind down interesting pathways!

Dual thinking for scientists

Marten Scheffer 1, Jordi Bascompte 2, Tone K. Bjordam 3, Stephen R. Carpenter 4, Laurie B. Clarke 5, Carl Folke 6,7, Pablo Marquet 8, Nestor Mazzeo 9,10, Mariana Meerhoff 9,11, Osvaldo Sala 12 and Frances R. Westley 13

ABSTRACT. Recent studies provide compelling evidence for the idea that creative thinking draws upon two kinds of processes linked to distinct physiological features, and stimulated under different conditions. In short, the fast system-I produces intuition whereas the slow and deliberate system-II produces reasoning. System-I can help see novel solutions and associations instantaneously, but is prone to error. System-II has other biases, but can help checking and modifying the system-I results. Although thinking is the core business of science, the accepted ways of doing our work focus almost entirely on facilitating system-II. We discuss the role of system-I thinking in past scientific breakthroughs, and argue that scientific progress may be catalyzed by creating conditions for such associative intuitive thinking in our academic lives and in education. Unstructured socializing time, education for daring exploration, and cooperation with the arts are among the potential elements. Because such activities may be looked upon as procrastination rather than work, deliberate effort is needed to counteract our systematic bias.

Reconciling Art and Science for Sustainability
Reconciling Art and Science for Sustainability


ES-2015-7434 Reconciling art and science for sustainability


Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.

Scheffer, M., J. Bascompte, T. K. Bjordam, S. R. Carpenter, L. B. Clarke, C. Folke, P. Marquet, N. Mazzeo, M. Meerhoff, O. Sala, and R. Westley. 2015. Dual thinking for scientists. Ecology and Society 20(2): 3. , part of a Special Feature on Reconciling Art and Science for Sustainability

Dual Thinking
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Fig. 1. The process of dual thinking as envisioned by the Norwegian artist Tone Bjordam ( Although the systematic reasoning process (system-II) depicted in the right-hand loop is emphasized in the way we teach science and organize our work, the associative left-hand loop (system-I) of the dual thinking process is usually hidden (Scheffer 2014). We argue that the working of this generator of novel ideas has always been essential for scientific breakthroughs and should be taught and catalyzed more explicitly in academia.

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