Researchers and others have known for a long time that we don’t have just one way of thinking. We are more often guided by our emotions and past experience than by cold rational analysis.
Humans seem capable of rational thought, but that ability didn’t exactly evolve to help us put people on the moon or delve into quantum mechanics. As with other evolutionary adaptations, our ability to perform some kind of reasoning kept us alive long enough to reproduce.That reasoning is not quite formal reasoning: If I see a polar bear eat my brother, then I will likely survive if I avoid a grizzly. However, I might also avoid a koala. That’s an irrational reaction, but I pay no evolutionary price for it. Our everyday “reasoning” is quite often not strictly rational and not consciously guided by us as much as we’d like to believe.
Researchers an d others have long posited two ways of thinking and there have been a number of “two brain” models that for the most part are similar:
For us aging boomers it was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with its Classical and Romantic.
Way before that was Yin and Yang.
Daniel Kahnemann talks about System One (in the moment and intuitive) and System Two (deliberative and rational) and describes the interplay as a psychodrama between the two. His book Thinking Fast and Slow is about the best reading on this (and other subjects about our brain’s gifts and flaws).
My favorite is Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the rider and the elephant. The elephant is our largely unconscious reactive brain: the rider, our rational brain. The elephant lumbers along attracted by the next shiny object and making snap decisions based on emotion and previous experience. The “rational” rider is capable of rational thought (and therefore capable of pulling the elephant back to a more rational path), but is lazy and actually seems more content to rationalize what the elephant has already decided!
The image above has some useful suggestions for dealing with these two.