Saturday, 8 December 2012

Automatic thinking? Reflective thinking?

Not many psychologists have won the Nobel Prize in Economics, but Professor Daniel Kahneman did in 2002. It's his work in his original field, though, which I believe helps to explain one of the fundamental principles on which I first based Moodscope.

As you'll know, rather than asking you to select a straightforward number to represent your mood, or even to simply tick boxes to indicate your ratings on Moodscope's twenty different emotions, we have you flipping and spinning double-sided playing cards.

Playing cards. Why? Flipping and spinning. Huh?

We live in a world in which designers are expected to make their websites easy to use. We insist that they should operate speedily. We impatiently expect to order and pay for books from Amazon with a single click. This is undeniably true, yet Moodscope's interface is built around flipping playing cards which seem certain to slow you down.

Well yes. But only if we've done our job properly. You see, that's exactly what we set out to achieve - a deliberately time-consuming interface.

Pretty counter-intuitive, you may think. So what's the game?

Daniel Kahneman proposes that there are two main types of thinking. If I ask you the answer to 2 + 2 you'll quickly, and automatically, answer 4. If, on the other hand you were asked to solve 17 x 24 it's likely that you'd need to think differently: you'd want to reflect, maybe to use pencil and paper too.

Professor Kahneman labels the automatic thinking 'System 1', and the more reflective style 'System 2'.

Now, Moodscope's hypothesis is that when someone's experiencing a low mood, their System 1 thinking may be automatically inclined to jump to the conclusion that everything is rotten in the state of Denmark. A therapist, on the other hand, might well encourage this person to be more reflective - to focus harder on how they REALLY feel, rather than how their (perhaps self-defeating) brain ASSUMES they feel - to switch to System 2, if you will. And this is precisely what we aim to do by asking you to manipulate the cards.

But whether or not you buy-in to psychology's System 1/2 thinking, doesn't it seem intuitively right that there'd be a benefit in pausing for a few minutes once a day to focus properly on how you really feel? As soon as you're used to Moodscope's cards, it should take no more than three minutes to flip and spin them. On the basis that you're awake for 16 hours a day, your time investment is just 0.3% of a day, leaving you with 99.7% of it to do other stuff.

And that doesn't seem like a bad deal to me. What's more, just a couple more minutes with the Moodscope Plus tools will enable you to explore the themes and patterns underlying the variations in your mood.

That's what I think, but if you'd like to tell us what you think, please click the 'x comments' link immediately below (if you're commenting on this particular post, don't add your comment at the very bottom of the page).