The Science of Thinking

The Science of Thinking

For most of us, thinking
is at least somewhat unpleasant. We try to avoid it, where possible. For example: I asked these guys how long does it take for the earth to go around the Sun. – What do you reckon, cuz? – Isn’t it 24 hours ?
– Obviously a day, yes. Or take this problem which has been given to thousands of college students. You go into a toy store, and there’s a toy bat and a toy ball. Together they cost 1.10$. And the bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost ? – Ten cents. – We’re all wrong aren’t we? – WHAT’S THE ANSWER ? If you think about it for just a second it’s obvious that the ball can’t cost ten cents, because if it did, then the bat would cost 1.10$ and the two items together would cost 1.20$. The correct answer is five cents. Now, the point of these questions is not that they’re difficult. Any of these people could have quickly check their answer if they wanted to. The point is that they don’t check because thinking is uncomfortable. It takes effort. – Hey, the Earth doesn’t take one day to get around the Sun. – Takes like a year! [LAUGHS] Now, I think it would be easy to put these mistakes down to stupidity, and believe that you, being much smarter, could never fall into such traps. But then I think you’d be fooling yourself. I think these examples reveal blind spots in all of our thinking due to the fundamental way that our brains work . Now, one way of modeling how the brain operates is as though there are two systems at work psychologists call them system one and system two but maybe it’s useful to think of them as characters so let’s call system one Gun and system two Drew. You are Drew. he represents your conscious thought, the voice in your head.“I am who you think you are” he’s the one capable of following instructions. He can execute a series of steps. If you are asked to calculate 13 x 17 in your head, for example, he is the one who has to do it.“can just use my calculator?” no…“all right, um, seventeen times….” Drew is lazy it takes effort to get Drew to do anything and he is slow but he’s the careful one, capable of catching and fixing mistakes…“221”. Now meet system one Gun. He is incredibly quick, which he needs to be since he’s constantly processing copious amounts of information coming in through your senses. He picks out the relevant bits and discard the rest, which is most of it, and he works automatically without you, Drew, being consciously aware of what he is doing. For example when you spot them text he reads it before you can even decide whether or not you want to read it Gun fills in the gaps. For example, what does this say? Did you notice that the “H” in ‘the’ ‘A’ in ‘cat’ are actually the same symbol but you had no trouble reading it because Gun made the correct, automatic, assumption, so although Drew is unaware of what Gun is doing, its Guns perceptions that become the basis for your conscious thoughts. The way I like to think of it each of these characters is related to one of your main memory structures, Guns automatic responses are made possible by long-term memory, the library of experiences you’ve built up over your lifetime. In contrast, Drew exists entirely within working memory so he’s only capable of holding four or five novel things in mind at a time. This is perhaps one of the best-known findings from psychology. That our capacity to hold and manipulate novel information is incredibly limited like when trying to remember a string of random numbers. “6 7 5 5 3 1” (offscreen)Yes! But we are able to overcome these limitations if the information is familiar to us. For example, let me give you four random digits “7102”. Now these would normally take up most of your working memory capacity just to remember, but, if you reverse them, 2017, there now just one thing the present year the process of grouping things together according to your prior knowledge is called chunking and you can actually hold four or five chunks in working memory at once. So the larger the chunks the more information you can actively manipulate at one time. Learning is then, the process of building more and bigger chunks by storing and further connecting information in long-term memory essentially passing off tasks from Drew to Gun. But in order for this to happen, Drew first has to engage with the information actively and effort-fully, often multiple times. For example, when you were first learning to tie your shoelaces, you probably recited a rhyme to help you remember what to do next using up all your working memory in the process. But after doing it over and over and over again, it gradually became automatic, that is, Drew doesn’t have to think about it anymore because Guns got it. Musicians and sports stars refer to this as muscle memory, though of course, the memory is not the muscles it’s still in the brain just controlled by Gun. “You can practice everything exactly as it is, and exactly as it’s written but at just such a speed that you have to think about and know exactly where you are and what your fingers are doing and what it feels like.” Slow deliberate conscious practice repeated often enough, leads to this:I bet 99% of the time what appears to be superhuman ability, comes down to the incredible automation skills of Gun, developed through the painstaking deliberate practice of Drew. What’s interesting is, its actually possible to see how hard Drew is working, just by looking at someone. Try this task: I’m going to show you four digits, I want you to read them out loud and then after two beats, I want you to say each number back on the beat, but adding one to each digit. So, as an example, 7 2 9 1 (beats in background) should be… 8 3 0 2 This is called the Add One task and it forces Drew to hold these digits and memory while making manipulations to them. Now it’s important to say the numbers back on the beat. Try this one: (beats in background at regular interval) To make it harder, you can try adding 3 instead of 1. Ready? (beats in background at regular interval) Now what you’re unaware of, is that, as you’re completing this task, your pupils are dilating. When Drew is hard at work, as he is in this task, you have a physiological response: including increased heart rate, sweat production, and pupil dilation. Watch how the pupils of these participants enlarge as they perform the Add One and Add Three tasks. 4…3…9…7…2 (beats in backrgound) 5…4…0…8…3 (offscreen) Excellent! nicely done. (offscreen conversation)…”this requires a lot of thinking” “I know, that’s the point6 9 1 6 7 0 2 7 When this research was originally carried out the researchers made a surprising observation: when the participants were not engaged with the tasks that were just chatting with the experimenters their pupils didn’t really dilate at all.. this indicates that the Add One and Add Three tasks are particularly strenuous for system two, and that most of our day-to-day life is a stroll for Drew with most tasks handled automatically by Gun. Just as we spend a lot of our lives lounging around, our brains spend most of their time doing the mental equivalent. And I don’t mean to make that sound like a bad thing, this is how our brains evolved to make the best use of resources. For repetitive tasks we developed automatic ways of doing things, reserving Drew’s limited capacity for things that really need our attention, but in some circumstances there can be mix-ups. For example, I moved to Australia in 2004 and one of the first things I learned was that turn the lights on you flick the switch down. My whole life growing up in Canada Gun had automated that ‘up’ means ‘on’, so no matter how well I, Drew, knew that ‘down’ was ‘on’ in Australia I would for years, continually switch the lights off when entering a room and on when leaving. When Destin learn to ride the backwards bicycle with its steering reverse it took months to overcome his automated habitat and once he had done that he couldn’t easily go back to writing a normal bike. Understanding Gun and Drew also explains errors in the “Bat and Ball” question. Its Gun who first perceived the key pieces of information that, together the bat and ball cost a dollar ten, The bat costs more than the ball so the ball costs… Gun: “Ten cents” Drew: “Ten cents” Gun imediately had a answer that he blurted out automatically. Meanwhile Drew, without being consciously aware that the answer came from Gun endorsed the idea without checking it, after all the answers sounded reasonable and drew is lazy so how do you get Drew to do more work? Well researchers have found at least one way. When they gave out a clearly printed test including the “Bat and Ball”question to incoming college students 85% got at least one wrong but when they printed the test in a hard-to-read font with poor contrast the error rate dropped to thirty-five percent harder to read test resulted in more correct answers and the explanation for this is simple. Since Gun can’t quickly jump to an answer he hands off the task to Drew who then invest the required mental effort to reason his way to the correct answer. When something is confusing, Drew worked harder and when Drew work harder you’re more likely to reach the right answer and remember the experience. This is something i think the advertising industry knows about and is using to its advantage. A few years ago, again in Australia, I saw a giant billboard that had just two letters on it “Un”. There was no logo, no indication of what it was for and this seems to go against all the basic principles of advertising: to show what the product does, how it’s better than the competition, and use clear branding and maybe a jingle to make it memorable. The goal is usually to make the message as easy to understand as possible so Drew doesn’t have to work very hard, but if you look at a lot of effective advertising today, it’s changed to be more confusing. as the “Un” campaign rolled out across Sydney, I saw ads like this one in bus shelters. “Un” explained. With ‘Un’ there is no stress, just unstress no hassle, just unhastle with ‘Un’ you can undo what you did, you can undrive through the car wash with the window down or unbreak dance in front of your teenage son. And his mates. ‘Un’ makes life relaxing and unreal. ‘Un’ your life. Be happy and live for now. Don’t worry. Unworry. Can you guess what the ads were for? They’re actually for insurance. Now that advertising is everywhere, Gun is skilled at filtering it out. Its automatic, if I just saw another insurance ad that I never would have given it a second thought, but something that doesn’t make sense, thats something Gun can’t deal with, so he hands it off to Drew This same realization has been happening in education: lectures which have long been the dominant teaching method, are now on the decline. Like the old form of advertising, they’re too easy to tune out and often, especially in science lectures, too many new pieces of information are presented, and that exceeds Drew’s capacity because he doesn’t have big enough chunks to break the material into. In place of lectures, universities are introducing workshops, peer instruction and formats where students are forced to answer more questions, do more work than just listen and take notes, and this will undoubtedly make Drew work harder, which is good because that’s how learning happens, but a lot of students don’t like it because it requires more effort. Just as it’s hard to motivate someone to get off the couch and exercise, it’s hard to get Drew to give his full effort. There’s an appeal to doing things you already know, for the musician to play the same familiar songs that Gun has already automated, that feel and sound good. To watch videos that give you the sensation of understanding without actually learning anything. To always drive with the GPS on so you never get lost, but you also never learn the way. If you really want to learn and get better at anything, have any chance of becoming an expert, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable. Because thinking takes effort, it involves fighting through confusion, and for most of us that’s at least somewhat unpleasant.

Dereck Turner

100 thoughts on “The Science of Thinking

  1. Gabriel Samaan says:

    Awesome video man!

  2. Daniel Toscano says:

    Down is just on in Australia because Australia is upside down

  3. Jacob Hill says:

    So true. 11:35

  4. vazvaz voova says:

    Just the first step is uncomfortable..
    Then thinking become addictive!

  5. Gryphon1984 says:

    I disliked this video because of the annoying auto-translation of the title, which I can't turn off. Just for your information @Youtube.

  6. America Yong says:

    This makes me thought of life noggin's ending…

  7. Jacob Madden says:

    Anyone else focus on the words beginning with un after that last bit about the insurance company. The whole rest of the video they just seemed to pop out at me. I'm wondering if it was my mind focusing on it or the speaker using more of them after discussing that ad campaign or a combination of both. weird

  8. Syed Wajahat says:

    Amazing video

  9. Aaquib Raza says:

    This video should be renamed to "Quick 12 minutes summary of Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman".

  10. Vincent Stragier says:


  11. Facepalm Jesus says:

    thinking is a virus

  12. Hdhdh Ndjdhdhdhdh says:

    What if our thoughts is just our ears manipulating the sound of air and makes it sound like a voice?

  13. joze k says:

    WOW, what a great video! Very insightful.

  14. Spooferish says:

    This is "The" best video I watched on YouTube. From the day it has been released I have watched atleast 5/6 times. In hope this concept is learnt by my "Gun" and when ever there is carefulness is required. My "Gun" hand over tasks to "Drew" before i mess up situation

  15. Ahmet Cem TURAN says:

    So you are saying that if the question is worse legible we are more careful when reading it. Does that mean that kids who need glasses (but don't have any yet) are more careful when reading questions? Also interesting would be a test to see if glasses that would make text more difficult to read could improve test results.

  16. Cly Novak says:

    It's not obvious at all why the ball costs $.05. why can't the ball cost $.10 if the bat is one dollar more? Bat costs zero until it costs a dollar. So it costs a dollar, which is a dollar more than the $.10. so why is it obvious the ball cost $.05? I just can't grasp the math of this.

  17. javiel González says:

    I'm still don't understand the ball and bat problem can someone explain it to me

  18. Oz Garcia says:

    Excellent presentation. You didn't mention that Gun never sleeps and he creates nightmares and weird dreams.

  19. Angad Swami says:

    Pls Hindi transfer voice

  20. Justin Hollohead says:

    Absolute rot you're talking, this is what happens in the fantasy world of the GLOBE society where narrators spew and regurgitate any nonsense off a dummy card.

  21. Its Britney Bitch says:

    And there is me over thinking EVERYTHING

  22. Firstname Lastname says:

    One of your best video's

  23. ajko000 says:

    I've realized about 2 years ago the best way to learn anything is to make it weigh more on your "concious functions" or trauma. The former essentially meaning if you want to learn something like a language's script you could repeat the letters over and over, or force yourself to write them in a manner so impractical and possibly frustrating it really seeds it into your memory.

  24. sko pens says:

    I am Drew.

  25. Icalasari says:

    …This may have given me an idea on how to beat my ADHD and actually get to doing needed tasks

  26. Theo Suharto says:

    At my age, I'm not even sure whatever I do will matter anymore so I just sit in couch and wait for the sweet release of death

  27. Unsettling threats says:

    For "The cat" I read it as "The Ch_t" and i thought we were supposed to fill in the a

  28. BlackHalo87 says:

    Ehhh I couldn't even start with the add 1 test. 🙄

  29. Jurlan says:


  30. Príscila May says:

    OMG! Very good!

  31. ButterBall says:

    Am I the only one who thinks all the advertising in time square is obnoxious and gross?

  32. Max Flintlock says:

    1:11 Joe put your jumper on!

  33. Albertus Magnus says:

    Thinking hurts😀so informative…so awesome…wow so my years of creating…singing has paid off….for me I hear the lyrics….

  34. Dominick Oquin says:

    Why does over thinking come from?

  35. Azio Prism says:

    Lifes hard enough as it is, you don't wanna force yourself to think over things that won't matter in the end.

  36. dimitrios lianos says:

    This video at 0,25 is dope… Just try not to read this … #justtrynottoreadthis

  37. Tillmann Schürfeld says:

    7:16 why do I know this person?

  38. Paula Thompson says:

    the correct answer is not 5 cents

  39. yungbape says:

    I thought the whole pupil dilation thing was cool asl tbh

  40. RyuuTenno says:

    Thinking's easy for me, it's the not thinking part that takes work

  41. Alex Young says:

    Critical thinking is unnatural, uncomfortable and takes a lot of training to develop and maintain.

  42. Mr. Ant says:

    The bigger the chunks, the worse the lag.

  43. Fallen Seraph says:

    In my mind Gun and Drew can’t do sh*t cause Biff just thinks about women. Dam you Biff.

  44. Jared says:

    11:34 wise words

  45. MikeyDunn says:

    Fantastic work, Veritasium! This one is one of my top vids now. Love it

  46. Grea Assar says:

    Interestingly enough, as someone who can actually multitask, which is a very rare feat, processing different types of information at once, my brain has split into multiple people. I previously thought this was personas or alters like those who have DID but no, it's quicker, instantaneous. Imagine that Drew, being the first person in the house had a younger brother named Gun. Gun is a genius but sometimes gets too overwhelmed with all of the sensory input. Drew, being very smart tells a very anxious Gun, lets switch places. But instead of handing off the info, Drew allows gun to just make the decisions with confidence, without fear, without logic. He just processes. Now, when they switch back, Gun has no problem handling the work on his own.

    Okay. Wunderbar. Now, imagine that Drew wants to learn 5 languages, be a cook, fashion designer, and an opera singer. Well, thinks Drew, that is just too much work for one person. It would take a village… It would take an efficient company. So Drew invites his mother, father, and siblings, and cousins to live with him and delegates one task to each. With every new skill, another family member is invited and so forth until there is an entire ecosystem of people living inside of Drew. This is not an illusion. They are not characters, they are not personas. They have evolved into sentient beings very much like AI. Or how our evolutionary processes work. Evolution in real time.

    Fascinating stuff. Brava!

  47. Grea Assar says:

    Also interesting is that I am a visual, auditory, and hands on learner so. Lectures are perfect for me because I see the visual movement of the professor, the way they move their mouth. I listen to what they're saying. And I take notes which for my mirror neurons is the same as doing it. Weird stuff but it works!

  48. 1000 Gulags says:

    Is it just me or is the music at the beginning from the VAB in KSP

  49. James Hoopes says:

    No, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Slow deliberate practice ends up with a broken harp. And sometimes minor blood loss. At least with me.

  50. Catalin Radoi says:

    Damn man, the ball and the bat costing 1.10$… I was standing under the bed when it first came out. Closed the video. Veritasium when you made a job out of it, the quality of your videos went down.

  51. Isaac Young says:

    I'm confused. 😣

  52. Tigor The Tiger says:

    11:34 – I thougt that there will be an advertisement and I nearly closed this video.

  53. OkayGift RoTMG says:

    Drew is slightly mentally slow?

  54. أبو فدوڪس بن قاسم الڪلابے says:

    Actually I wasn’t able to read The of The Cat because I saw the H as an A.

  55. Random Channel says:

    This video just summer up my entire life.

  56. padrello says:

    One of the best video I have ever seen… Thank you

  57. dopamine addict says:

    Drew made gun think that gun was the one who made to like this video

  58. Co Fa says:

    Just watched the first 16 seconds… Killed me.

  59. Shekar Reddy says:

    Read the book – "Thinking fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman

  60. Saulo Souz says:

    Read the book Thinking fast and slow. this video its a summarisation of it. btw i loved the video and the book.

  61. Vlad Tepes says:

    dann können wir ja jetzt damit anfangen.

  62. Narendra Rane says:

    This is gold!!

  63. V - Sig says:

    Thinking burns calories.

  64. sorted sortof says:

    Boy, I'm going to have to think about this.

  65. David Schaftenaar says:

    One thing needs to be mentioned here: Drew is "lazy" because his stamina is limited; Drew's accuracy drops with each additional problem he solves during the day, so he doesn't step in unless he really has to. If you want an example: Court rulings made late in the afternoon are far more likely to be overturned than ones made in the early morning.

  66. Rac3rZer0 [RZ] says:

    I already knew that "The Cht" had the same symbol in the middle of each word without him telling me

  67. Sooraj Biju says:

    does Drew also have a Drew and Gunn in his head?

  68. Sam Butler says:

    Canadian light switches are European?

  69. superFred says:

    sans forgetica

  70. Myss says:

    I wish I was drew

  71. Wufgang01 says:

    i love thinking

  72. Cozee2 says:

    at 5:48 this should be 8402

  73. Amit Kumar says:

    Kick Drews ass so that he starts working!

  74. Jeffrey Brassard says:

    This was fascinating Great Job.

  75. Calvin Stoffer says:

    I want to have your knowledge

  76. Wemdiculous says:

    Im uninsured by un insurance, and you can be to for $4.94/month call now.

  77. SAMMIE W says:

    I was blown away by ur video I love it

  78. Tom Craig says:

    Look.. The bat and ball for $1.10 – This is a variable. If the total cost is $1.10, and the bat bat costs a minimum of $1, there is no reason to assume that each article should be shared equally. The ball could cost $0… or could cost $0.10, etc.. I do not see why the ball and the bat share the difference? The ball, could cost anything from $0 to $0.10. The bat costs a minimum of $1; the total price is $1.10. One cannot determine how much the ball or bat costs, except that the bat is >$1 Thus, why assign $0.05 to each?

  79. Chris says:

    UNcomfortable your life! start today! and find out why 😛

  80. Salil Hegiste says:

    Nice n cool vid Be
    Enjoyed a lot

  81. skyak says:

    This is good true "behavioral science", but I dispute the claim that we favor the fast 'answer of least thought' simply because it is easy and low effort. We blurt that answer because in the past we have been rewarded for being first and agreeing -not right! The majority of people do this because they are better off giving the wrong, popular answer quickly -society denigrates the people who think all the time -NERDS! Sadly, this tendency is growing worse on the internet -POPULAR has been substituted for RIGHT.

  82. Parth Mistry says:

    08:05 Poor Dustin got wrecked in the name of science.

  83. Kenzo Staelens says:

    8:52 so, a shitty handwriting is better to learn for tests?

  84. Jamie Fisk says:

    Why do I get the vague sense that you are speaking to us from the VAB??

  85. Max Madovski says:

    just the best video that i watched for along time

  86. Luke Peters says:

    2:50 so how does my brain work if I read 'cat' as 'chat'? seems like my brain saw both the A and H as similar so by the time I'm consciously reading 'cat', my brain's already decided 'aight not sure if A or H, so it's both now to you'

  87. kyle robinson says:

    ING did it in the 90's.

  88. Mayur Shah says:

    What a video man!!! Awesome

  89. Deepraj Bhosale says:

    Best explanation.

  90. Jas Sdf says:

    your Drew was hilarious

  91. KARTIK THAKUR says:

    Yeaa! … VSAUCE's twin brother! .

  92. yakityjak says:

    Kerbal Space Program soundtrack

  93. Tomasz527422 says:

    There is a book about it. It's called "Thinking fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman.

  94. baxolise sikisi says:

    hayi kwedini

  95. Lil Leslie says:

    from a person whos bad at math and thinking on the fly. its because im doing 1 part of the answer and i need part 1 to answer part 2, but by the time i reach part 2, ive already forgot the concept of part 1 leading me to make circles because i cant remember or dont have the effort to try .anyone else.

  96. xImBeaST12321x says:

    not gonna lie, at 2:50 i read that as "TAE CAT"

  97. Sicadera Sicadera says:

    Found your channel = feel thankful!

  98. Toms Bunk says:

    Its nature…human always love free stuff

  99. Tapiwa Chibuye says:

    What’s the scientific name for the part of the brain represented as Drew.i wanna search how to improve him and get him to work for me more

  100. Magic Smoke FPV says:

    The bat and ball one still doesn't make sense to me???? Is this some form of common core?

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