Thinking, Fast And Slow – IELTS Reading Passage 3

Thinking, Fast And Slow

The idea that we are ignorant of our true selves surged in the 20th century and became common. It’s still a commonplace, but it’s changing shape. These days, the bulk of the explanation is done by something else: the ‘dual-process’ model of the brain. We now know that we apprehend the world in two radically opposed ways, employing two fundamentally different modes of thought: ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’. System 1 is fast; it’s intuitive, associative and automatic and it can’t be switched off. Its operations involve no sense of intentional control, but it’s the “secret author of many of the choices and judgments you make” and it’s the hero of Daniel Kahneman’s alarming, intellectually stimulating book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

  System 2 is slow, deliberate and effortful. Its operations require attention. (To set it going now, ask yourself the question “What is 13 x 27?”). System 2 takes over, rather unwillingly, when things get tricky. It’s “the conscious being you call ‘I'”, and one of Kahneman’s main points is that this is a mistake. You’re wrong to identify with System 2, for you are also and equally and profoundly System 1. Kahneman compares System 2 to a supporting character who believes herself to be the lead actor and often has little idea of what’s going on.

  System 2 is slothful, and tires easily (a process called ‘ego depletion’) – so it usually accepts
what System 1 tells it. It’s often right to do so, because System 1 is for the most part pretty good at what it does; it’s highly sensitive to subtle environmental cues, signs of danger, and so on. It does, however, pay a high price for speed. It loves to simplify, to assume WYSIATI (‘what you see is all there is’). It’s hopelessly bad at the kind of statistical thinking often required for good decisions, it jumps wildly to conclusions and it’s subject to a fantastic range of irrational cognitive biases and interference effects, such as confirmation bias and hindsight bias, to name but two.

  The general point about our self-ignorance extends beyond the details of Systems 1 and 2. We’re astonishingly susceptible to being influenced by features of our surroundings. One famous (pre-mobile phone) experiment centred on a New York City phone booth. Each time
a person came out of the booth after having made a call, an accident was staged – someone dropped all her papers on the pavement. Sometimes a dime had been placed in the phone booth, sometimes not (a dime was then enough to make a call). If there was no dime in the phone booth, only 4% of the exiting callers helped to pick up the papers. If there was a dime, no fewer than 88% helped.
  Since then, thousands of other experiments have been conducted, all to the same general effect. We don’t know who we are or what we’re like, we don’t know what we’re really doing and we don’t know why we’re doing it. For example, Judges think they make considered decisions about parole based strictly on the facts of the case. It turns out (to simplify only slightly) that it is their blood-sugar levels really sitting in judgment. If you hold a pencil between your teeth, forcing your mouth into the shape of a smile, you’ll find a cartoon funnier
than if you hold the pencil pointing forward, by pursing your lips round it in a frown-inducing
way.

  In an experiment designed to test the ‘anchoring effect’, highly experienced judges were given a description of a shoplifting offence. They were then ‘anchored’ to different numbers by being asked to roll a pair of dice that had been secretly loaded to produce only two totals – three or nine. Finally, they were asked whether the prison sentence for the shoplifting offence should be greater or fewer, in months, than the total showing on the dice. Normally the judges would have made extremely similar judgments, but those who had just rolled nine proposed an average of eight months while those who had rolled three proposed an average of only five months. All were unaware of the anchoring effect.

  The same goes for all of us, almost all the time. We think we’re smart; we’re confident we won’t be unconsciously swayed by the high list price of a house. We’re wrong. (Kahneman admits his own inability to counter some of these effects.) For example, another systematic error involves ‘duration neglect’ and the ‘peak-end rule’. Looking back on our experience of pain, we prefer a larger, longer amount to a shorter, smaller amount, just so long as the closing stages of the greater pain were easier to bear than the closing stages of the lesser one.

Questions

Questions 27-31

Choose the correct letter, ABC or D. Write the correct letter in boxes 27-31 on your answer sheet.  

27. The dual process model of the brain is 

A. The common practice of thinking about two things at the same time. 

B. The conflicting impulses pushing the brain to make both more and less effort 

C. The feeling of liking and not liking something simultaneously 

D. The natural tendency to make sense of the world in two different ways

28. System 2 takes charge of decision-making when 

A. When the brain needs a rest. 

B. When more mental effort is required. 

C. When a person feels excessively confident. 

D. When a dangerous situation is developing.

29. ‘Confirmation bias’ is an example of 

A. System 1 rushing to judgment. 

B. System 1 making a careful judgment. 

C. System 1 making a brave judgment 

D. System 1 judging a situation based on facts.

30. The main conclusion of the phone booth experiment was that 

A. People are more likely to help someone that they are attracted to. 

B. People are more responsive to their environment than they realize. 

C. People are more likely to be helpful if they think they will be rewarded. 

D. People are generally selfish and will always do what is best for themselves.

31. The ‘anchoring effect’ is the process by which 

A. Decisions are made using a numerical system. 

B. A subconscious factor may strongly influence our decision-making 

C. Decisions about prison sentences are made by rolling a dice. 

D. We may emphasize certain factors too much in our decision-making.

Questions 32-36

Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3?

In boxes 32-36 on your answer sheet, write:

YES                       if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer

NO                         if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer

NOT GIVEN        if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

32.  In general, humans have become less rational over the last 100 years.

33.  Most people lack a clear sense of their own personal identity.

34.  A person can train themselves to use System 2 most of the time.

35.  People who make important decisions should be made aware of the dual-process model.

36.  In most everyday situations, people are capable of making calm and rational decisions.

Questions 37-39

Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A-E, below. Write the correct letter, A-E, in boxes 37-39 on your answer sheet.

A. feeling a certain way at the conclusion of an experience decides how weremember it.

B. decision-making and judgments are made too quickly.

C. having less energy means we are more likely to succumb to an irrational bias.

D. being sensitive to ones’ surroundings is a useful survival skill.

E. wanting more food or drink may distract us from the decision we are making.

In the course of evolutionary history System 1 has served humans well because 37 …………….. 
Low blood sugar or tiredness may be factors in decision making because 38 ……………..
The ‘peak-end rule’ shows us that 39 ……………..
Thinking, Fast And Slow

Question 40

Choose the correct letter, ABC or D Write the correct letter in box 40 on your answer sheet.  

40. What is the writer’s primary purpose in writing this article? 

A. to introduce their own research to the general reader 

B. to summarize and review a recently published book 

C. to argue against a commonly-held theory 

D. to encourage readers to question their own decision-making processes.

Answers

Questions 27-31

27. Answer: D. The natural tendency to make sense of the world in two different ways

  • Key words: dual process, model, brain
  • We can find information about the ‘dual process’ model in the first paragraph: 
    • “…we apprehend the world in two radically opposed ways, employing two fundamentally different modes of thought”.
  • The word “apprehend” means “understand or perceive”, so here it is similar to “make sense of”. The word “opposed” is  a stronger word for “different”. Therefore, it can be said that “we make sense of the world in two different ways”. The answer is D.
    • make sense of = apprehend
    • different = opposed
  • The answer is D.

28. Answer: B. When more mental effort is required.

  • Key words: System 2, takes charge, decision-making
  • Looking at the second paragraph, it is mentioned that:
    • “System 2 takes over, rather unwillingly, when things get tricky”.
  • Here, “take over” means “assume control of something” and it is the same as “take charge of”. The adjective “tricky” means “difficult and requiring care and skill”. The author also gives an example of a question that would set System 2 going: “What is 13 x 27?” which is a fairly “tricky” math question if you want to calculate without the help of a calculator. 
  • Therefore, we can say that this system takes over when more mental effort is required.
    • take charge of = take over
  • The answer is B.

29. Answer: A. System 1 rushing to judgment.

  • Key words: confirmation bias, example
  • The term ‘confirmation bias’ can be found in the third paragraph. Along with ‘hindsight bias’, it is an example of irrational cognitive biases that System 1 is subject to. 
  • To be more detailed,
    • “It’s hopelessly bad at the kind of statistical thinking often required for good decisions, it jumps wildly to conclusions”. 
  • The correct answer is A because “jumping to conclusions” also means “rushing to judgment” – making decisions irrationally and hastily.
    • rushing to judgment = jumping to conclusions
  • The answer is A.

30. Answer: B. People are more responsive to their environment than they realize.

  • Key words: main, conclusion, phone booth experiment
  • Details about the phone booth experiment are in the fourth paragraph. The author says that:
    •  “We’re astonishingly susceptible to being influenced by features of our surroundings”.
  • We can see that whether there was a coin in the phone booth or not affected how people responded/reacted greatly in this situation, and the ‘coin’ can be considered a feature of the surroundings (or environment). 
  • The word “astonishingly” indicates something that surprises us because we do not realize it, and “susceptible” means “likely to be influenced”. Thus, it can be said that we are more likely to be influenced by our environment than we realize. The answer is therefore B.
    • environment = surroundings
  • The answer is B.

31. Answer: B. A subconscious factor may strongly influence our decision-making

  • Key words: anchoring effect, process
  • The term ‘anchoring effect’ is discussed in paragraph 6, so we need to read this section carefully. 
  • Firstly, C is wrong because the experiment only shows the influence of dice rolling on the judges’ decisions; it does not mean the number on the dice will determine the prisoners’ sentences. Likewise, A is wrong too, because rolling dice is not a numerical system. 
  • Some students may think D is correct, but the judges actually did not emphasize the outcome of the dice in their decision at all. In fact, it just affected them unconsciously: 
    • “All were unaware of the anchoring effect”.
  • So the answer must be B.
    • subconscious = unaware
  • The answer is B.

Questions 32-36

32. Answer: Not Given

  • Key words: humans, less, rational, last 100 years
  • Although there is a reference in paragraph 1 to the 20th century, which might be interpreted as during the last 100 years, the author does not give any information about human rationality. (Instead, the author mentions people’s lack of sense of identity). The answer is therefore not given.
  • The answer is NOT GIVEN.

33. Answer: Yes

  • Key words: people, lack, sense, personal identity
  • In paragraph 1, the author mentions “the idea that we are ignorant of our true selves”, which means people do not really know their true selves, or in other words, their true personal identity. 
  • Subsequently, the author says that this is still commonplace, so we may infer that most people have this lack of personal identity. 
    • personal identity = true selves
    • most ~ commonplace
  • The answer is YES.

34. Answer: No


  • From the first paragraph, we know that we cannot switch off System 1, suggesting that we cannot switch to System 2 at will. 
    • “System 1 is fast; it’s intuitive, associative and automatic and it can’t be switched off”.
  • Therefore, people cannot use System 2 any time they want.  In paragraph 3, we learn that System 2 tires easily, so it usually accepts what System 1 tells it.  All of this indicates that people cannot train themselves to use System 2 most of the time.
  • The answer is NO.

35. Answer: Not Given

  • Key words: people, decisions, aware, dual-process model
  • The dual-process model is discussed in paragraphs 1-3 only.  People who make important decisions are not mentioned in those paragraphs. Hence, we can conclude that this is Not Given.
  • The answer is NOT GIVEN.

36. Answer: No

  • Key words: everyday situations, capable, calm, rational, decisions
  • A person is automatically in System 1 most of the time, according to the first paragraph. In the third paragraph, however, System 1 is described as “hopelessly bad at the kind of statistical thinking often required for good decisions”. So, we can infer that System 1 is not good at rational decision-making, because “rational” means “based on or in accordance with reason, logic or facts”.
  • System 1 does not make calm or rational decisions.  In paragraph 3, the author states that:
    • “…it jumps wildly to conclusions and it’s subject to a fantastic range of irrational cognitive biases…” 
  • Therefore, the statement contradicts what the author claims.
  • The answer is NO.

Questions 37-39

37. Answer: D

  • Key words: evolutionary history, System 1, served humans well, 
  • In paragraph 3, we are told that:
    • “System 1 is for the most part pretty good at what it does; it’s highly sensitive to subtle environmental cues, signs of danger, and so on”.
  • The term “serve well” means “be useful or beneficial to”, so this sentence discusses the positive points of System 1. Being sensitive to the environment, especially signs of danger, means that you can survive better. 
  • Thus, the most suitable ending is D – being sensitive to ones’ surroundings is a useful survival skill.
    • surroundings ~ environment
  • The answer is D.

38. Answer: C

  • Key words: low blood sugar, tiredness, factors, decision making, 
  • The words “low blood sugar” and “tiredness” may lead you into thinking that the answer must relate to “wanting more food or drink”, which is E. However, there is no information given about how the need for food and drink may “distract” our decision-making.
  • Blood sugar levels are mentioned in paragraph 5:
    • “We don’t know who we are or what we’re like, we don’t know what we’re really doing and we don’t know why we’re doing it.  For example, Judges think they make considered decisions about parole based strictly on the facts of the case.  It turns out…that it is their blood-sugar levels really sitting in judgment”.
  • If they have low blood-sugar levels, Judges will be tired and this will affect the decisions that they make when they “sit in judgment” about whether to allow parole for offenders.  The writer suggests that when they are tired (= have less energy), Judges will tend to make irrational and biased decisions.
  • The correct ending is C – having less energy means we are more likely to succumb to an irrational bias.
  • The answer is C.

39. Answer: A

  • Key words: peak-end rule
  • Information about the ‘peak-end rule’ is in the last paragraph. There, the author explains what is meant by this rule:
    • “Looking back on our experience of pain, we prefer a larger, longer amount to a shorter, smaller amount, just so long as the closing stages of the greater pain were easier to bear than the closing stages of the lesser one”. 
  • The “closing stages” refer to the ending, or “conclusion”, of an experience. The feeling that the closing stages of an experience are “easier to bear” can be considered “a certain way” of feeling that we have towards that experience. 
  • Therefore, the only appropriate ending for this question is A – feeling a certain way at the conclusion of an experience decides how we remember it.
    • end = conclusion
  • The answer is A.

Questions 40

40. Answer: B. to summarize and review a recently published book

  • Key words: primary, purpose
  • In this article, the writer explains the dual-process model and some effects related to people’s decision-making. These are not the writer’s ideas, but Daniel Kahneman’s findings. Therefore A is clearly wrong. 
  • C is also wrong because the writer does not argue against Daniel Kahneman’s theory.  In paragraph 1, the writer calls Kahneman’s book ‘intellectually stimulating”.
  • The writer argues that we are ignorant of how we make our decisions, but this is not the same as saying that we should question our own decision-making processes.  Therefore, D is not correct.
  • Note that the writer mentions Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow at the beginning of the passage, reviewing it as “alarming, intellectually stimulating”, then goes on to discuss the ideas in this book, so B is the most appropriate answer – to summarize and review a recently published book.
  • The answer is B.

IELTS Reading British council

More IELTS Reading Passage 3

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