It’s been a little hectic at this end of the Web. Between two conferences, four paper drafts (no, they’re still not finished), getting married, and moving to Germany there’s been a certain lack of time for this project! Now, however, things are settling back to more or less normal, which thank goodness means I can pick this blog up again.
If you know me IRL, you might have heard, but anyway: I’m spending the next 12 months fortuituously at the University of Mannheim as a visiting PhD student. Needless to say, I’m very excited! The Department of Banking and Finance seems great, and full of awfully nice people. Also, taking a walk around the main building is certainly awe-inspiring:
On the other hand, I remember reading somewhere that pretty much any change in the environment increases productivity at first, but the effect wears off in a few weeks. Well, I guess we’ll see about that soon enough!
Another interesting thing is how going abroad shows the importance of System 1. I hadn’t really remembered just how much System 1 is the guiding light in the everyday. I mean, when you buy something from the grocery store, it’s mostly the same stuff as before. When you take a bus, it’s the same bus. When you walk to the gym, it’s where it’s always been and the equipment is exactly the same. However, all this changes with moving abroad.
When I wanted to buy cream for a sauce, I had to spend 10 minutes looking at different packages, trying in vain to determine which kind of cream it holds inside. When I was at the gym, I spent a lot of time looking for the right equipment. And when I take a bus or train anywhere, it takes half an hour to plan everything for the trip – especially since I didn’t have mobile Internet until just a few days ago. So everything where I could’ve normally relied on System 1 is now the business of System 2 instead. So instead of lazily cruising around my day, I spend an inordinate amount of time having to think things through. Having to weigh options and choose carefully. Having to look for information since there’s no schema in my head.
If you like, you could say that this shows how the ultimate rational model is not a good model to strive for. In a certain sense, you could be right. Then, on the other hand, all of the choices in my everyday are very small ones. So from the perspective of a meta-choice strategy, it totally makes sense to relegate those ones to System 1. It really doesn’t matter what cream I buy (at least not very much), so it’s a good heuristic to buy just what I’ve tried before, and what I know will work out. I really don’t want to spend my limited mental choice on rationally comparing the different cream packets. Because – as I’ve seen here – doing that will just tire you out really quickly. Better to rely on heuristics.