The Elections are coming near. Let us all exercise this one constitutional right as citizens of this beloved country. But when you do, let us not go unprepared. Remember that this one vote of ours has the potential to make or break our nation. And so vote wisely.
Yes, vote wisely. Why? Simply because for the past several weeks, we were in the midst of a frenzied campaign period.Â And if you are discerning enough, you will realize that most of the campaign strategies were actually designed to appeal to our senses and impressions. Â And whether we like it or not, our impressions most of the time win over our reasons.
Here is how it happens. We have two cognitive systems that influence our decisions, actions, and behavior. We will just borrow from Daniel Kahneman by naming these Impression (system 1) and Reason (system 2).
Impression or system 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little and no effort and no sense of voluntary control. This is where our Â feelings, impulses, and associations originate. Â Some of the examples of automatic activities that are attributed to System 1 are the following: a. Drive a car on an empty road; b. read words on large billboards; c. answer 2+2=?; d.Â detect hostility inÂ a voice; e. complete the phrase â€œbread andâ€¦â€; f. voting mindlessly;Â and a host of other activities that require minimal cognitive effort.
Meanwhile, System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. When we think of ourselves, we identify with System 2, the conscious, reasoning self that has beliefs, makes choices, and decides what to think about and what to do. Here are examples of System 2 operations: a. tell someone your phone number; b. brace for the starter gun on a race; c. look for the woman with white hair; d. fill out a voting form; etc.
The automatic operations of System 1 generate surprisingly complex pattern of ideas, but only the slower System 2 can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps. It is only System 2 which can take over and overrule the freewheeling impulses and associations of System 1. However, the immediacy and power of System 1 make it the dominant entity that guides our choices most of the time.
When we go to the polls, we will be at the mercy of System 1 if we go there unprepared. Since we are beings who prefer less thinking, we will rely on our impressions, feelings, and associations. Hence, most likely, the candidates whose campaigns were colorful, lively, entertaining, controversial, teeming with goods and bucks, and leading in the surveys, will come to mind easily, remembered, and voted upon.
But then again, while System 1 is reliable in situations where we need to act quickly, it is usually a poor guide for instances where we are given ample time to make sense of our decisions. We have had the time and we still even have the time now. Hence, it must not be an excuse not to be prepared come election day. And much more, there should be no excuse why we have not studied well and pondered on our choice of candidates.
More than the political hype, we should have listened to forums and debates where issues were tackled. We should have studied the lives of the candidates and tracked their accomplishments. Do they have the integrity and competence?
Of course, this requires deliberate thinking, logic, and cognitive effort. In other words, this is activating System 2. But should we not be guided by reason rather than impressions in this critical time? As a citizen, is it not our duty to at least extend our efforts and contribute to the development of the nation by thinking well?
The fact that you are reading this piece tells me that you are making sure your System 2 balances the power of your System 1. And my hope is that this will lead us to make the list today, reflect on our choices, and go to the polls ready and justified.
Come election day, by activating the full gamut of our cognitive resources, we can be sure that our choices have been the best as far as we are concerned. By then, we can confidently say that we have faithfully done our duty, to God and country.
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(By Kit Nemenzo Balane)