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Dual thinking for scientists

Marten Scheffer, Wageningen Agricultural University, The Netherlands
Jordi Bascompte, Integrative Ecology Group, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Sevilla, Spain
Tone K. Bjordam, Studenterhytta i Nordmarka, Sørkedalen, Oslo, Norway
Stephen R. Carpenter, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Laurie B. Clarke, School of Education, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA
Carl Folke, Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Pablo Marquet, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Avda. Libertador Bernardo OHiggins 340, Santiago, Chile
Nestor Mazzeo, South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies, SARAS, Maldonado, Uruguay; CURE, Universidad de la República, Maldonado, Uruguay
Mariana Meerhoff, CURE,Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Maldonado, Uruguay; South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies, SARAS, Maldonado, Uruguay
Osvaldo Sala, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA
Frances R. Westley, University of Waterloo, School of Environment Enterprise and Development (SEED), Environment 3 (EV3), Waterloo, Canada


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Recent studies provide compelling evidence for the idea that creative thinking draws upon two kinds of processes linked to distinct physiological features, and stimulated under different conditions. In short, the fast system-I produces intuition whereas the slow and deliberate system-II produces reasoning. System-I can help see novel solutions and associations instantaneously, but is prone to error. System-II has other biases, but can help checking and modifying the system-I results. Although thinking is the core business of science, the accepted ways of doing our work focus almost entirely on facilitating system-II. We discuss the role of system-I thinking in past scientific breakthroughs, and argue that scientific progress may be catalyzed by creating conditions for such associative intuitive thinking in our academic lives and in education. Unstructured socializing time, education for daring exploration, and cooperation with the arts are among the potential elements. Because such activities may be looked upon as procrastination rather than work, deliberate effort is needed to counteract our systematic bias.

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087