How To Increase Your Health Literacy, From A Medical Researcher

We use two different kinds of thought processes when making decisions: System 1 and System 2, as Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman defines them. System 1 is fast and effortless, mainly based on emotion and signals. It’s easy—almost too easy. System 1 helps us proceed with life without giving it too much thought: a useful thing when you’re choosing a sandwich, but a lot less useful when you are trying to assess how to care for your health.

System 1 is compelling, but it can also be misleading. Whenever I’m on TV, for example, I notice the interviewer’s tone and facial expressions. Sometimes they radiate panic, which is good for making headlines, but drowns out the information I’m trying to convey. Viewers must be picking up on this System 1 cue, and freak out, regardless of what I’m saying.

In these cases, you need to rely on System 2: the deliberate, effortful, and slower way of thinking, based on calculations, data, facts, and figures.   

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