One of the Project’s outcomes was a piece of theoretical work about how the personal level is characterised and contrasted with the subpersonal. In a paper with Chris Frith we examined two flagship distinctions: between the conscious and representations that are unconscious; and between deliberate and automatic thought processes. The latter is the distinction popularised by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow — the distinction between ‘System 1’ (automatic) and ‘System 2’ (deliberate) thought.
System 1 or type 1 cognitive processes are very interesting. They’re often called habits. Habits are patterns of behaviour that we perform automatically, without thinking deliberately about what to do. But it’s not as if we’re entirely unconscious. We are normally conscious of where we are and what’s around us, and of the objects and people we are responding to, when we perform a habit.
This programme from the BBC World Service asks why we have habits. In my contribution I discuss the way habits operate and especially the puzzling process where we disengage from a habit and engage deliberate (type 2), conscious thinking. The whole programme offers an engaging perspective on habits and their role in our lives.