The task posed by a particular situation should not be confused with the system that is used to solve it. For example, one may have the task of understanding an intent statement that could be achieved using associational processes of System 1 or controlled skills powered by System 2. Therefore, an individual who is trying to understand an intent statement may or may not be using critical thinking to do so. Even more important, the application of critical thinking skills driven by System 2 does not always produce the best solution to a task. It would be a mistake to encourage the exclusive use of critical thinking because that strategy would deny the power and effectiveness of System 1. Similarly, it is not advisable to only develop associational processes because controlled deliberate reasoning can both produce superior solutions and provide necessary checks on the products of System 1. Moreover, the issue of which system is most effective is practically irrelevant because most theorists believe that both are almost always used in conjunction to produce a solution. Hence, the real issue that determines the quality of a solution is how well the two systems interact.

There is a general consensus in the literature that individuals are reluctant to engage in critical thinking (Moore, 2007). This is based on widespread observation of incoherent reasoning, nonsensical beliefs, lack of respect for evidence, poor reasoning test scores, and unsupported decision-making in various populations. Indeed, much of the literature is devoted to a movement to increase the application of critical thinking in various populations. One of the central topics has been the question of why the public seems disinclined to use it. Some theorists posit that individual characteristics, such as intellectual laziness, arrogance and cowardice (which are represented in the model as predisposing individual differences), are the reasons why it is avoided. The model of critical thinking discussed here, however, posits that negative affective consequences associated with the application of critical thinking are the primary inhibitory sources.

The model posits that individuals who engage in critical thinking for any substantive length of time are likely to experience negative affective reactions. For example, the process can produce mental fatigue, increased effort, increased anxiety, cognitive dissonance, and decreased self-esteem. Negative affect experienced during an episode might be countered by positive affect that is the result of a positive outcome (e.g., solving a difficult problem) that, in turn, is a direct result of critical thinking. Therefore, its application can be positively rewarded and hence, increased use may be realized. Some individuals, then, may not experience associated negative affect; but at the very least, by definition, critical thinking requires more effort than System 1 processing, and is therefore a less desirable means to achieve judgment in that limited sense.


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