The Intuitive and Analytical Thinking Style: Which One is Yours?


The human brain is sophisticated. It separates us from all other animals. It allows us to have abstract ideas and to solve complex problems. We are rational social beings, or are we?

It can be said that:

“Thinking analytically — that is, reasoning about and potentially overriding our intuitions, gut feelings, and instincts — is often considered the defining characteristic of the human species and perhaps our only hope for a better, more rational future.” (Bouvet & Bonnefon, 2015)

Even though the human brain helps us solve complex problems, a large body of evidence shows that people are often irrational problem solvers.

The reason is that when we think, we tend to justify or strengthen prior beliefs instead of creating new ones. Jean Piaget referred to this cognitive process as assimilation.

Through assimilation, we incorporate new information and experiences into our existing set of beliefs. When we assimilate, we risk becoming irrational decision-makers as we do not reevaluate our existing beliefs in this process. So, we may say that assimilation builds up our intuition.

Overall, there are two distinct thinking styles: the intuitive and the analytical thinking style.

In Daniel Kahneman’s research on decision-making, he uses the terms System 1 and System 2 to describe the intuitive and analytical thinking style, respectively. In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (2011), he describes the two systems in-depth.

As the title of the book says, System 1 is the fast, automatic, intuitive and mostly unconscious thinking style, whereas System 2 is slow, deliberate, analytical, conscious, and most importantly, it is effortful. Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for his experiments on this matter (it is the so-called dual process theory).

Many years ago, Carl Jung said that, “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” Perhaps what he meant was that people often rely on System 1? If that’s the case, he was right. Kahneman has documented that.

We need both systems to function properly. In some situations, we need to act quickly and intuitively, while other situations demand a more analytical approach.

Are you more intuitive or analytical in your way of thinking…?

Photo: Juan José Aza