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Known by many as the fastest game on two feet, Lacrosse requires smart thinking and players to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Any number of unfamiliar situations can arise during a game, making it essential that players can react quickly and make decisions on the fly. Our success in these situations can largely be attributed to which system of thinking, System One or System Two, we use to make that choice. In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains the two critical ways of thinking and how each one works. System One, an automatic and simple way of thinking, handles around 98% of all of our mental processing. This system responds quickly in situations, often leading to mistakes. System Two, a slow and coherent thinking process, uses significantly more energy and only accounts for 2% of our thinking. Through extensive practice, lacrosse players can train themselves to program System One responses using their System Two thinking in practice.
System One acts as our go-to method of thinking in almost all situations. Simple and complex tasks are completed using System One as it requires much less effort than System Two. Most of the time, System One runs automatically while System Two remains in the background. When both systems agree, impressions turn into beliefs. System One only calls on System Two when it runs into a problem and an event violates the ‘model world’ made by System One. System One supports and updates the model of the world around it, made up of what we think to be normal. An example of a System One trait is association. The brain is constantly creating connections between multiple words and ideas. When we hear an unpleasant word our immediate reaction will most likely be negative. System One often tries to attempt complex problems as well. As automatic and simple as it is, System One does not deal with complex situations in the best way possible; it makes decisions in a short manner of time and without checking its’ thoughts. Due to this laziness, most people are prone to place too much trust in their basic intuitions and do not exert the effort necessary to think with greater intuition. This makes System 1 very susceptible to easy mistakes. It relies on heuristics to avoid asking help from System Two, who enforces System 1’s ideas instead of checking its work. Heuristics are methods and shortcuts used by S1. These are useful when solving a problem with System 1. This method of thinking does not guarantee to be optimal or rational, but is useful for solving problems that require quick thinking. S1 links together words, places, and people to help associate memories and emotions with certain experiences.
System Two, on the other hand, is our conscious mind. This system thinks in a logical and deliberate manner. An example of System Two thinking is parking in a narrow space. This can not be done effortlessly and requires System One to call on System Two for support. Our methodical System Two rarely takes over, only making conscious decisions in perplexing and unfamiliar situations. System Two does not like to use much effort. It has a controlled mental process that burns more energy than System One. Thoughts and actions that require close attention and focus are used through System Two. Despite its accuracy, System Two does have its downfalls. It has a very small capacity to hold multiple trains of thoughts, as it can only hold about four unique ones. This small capacity leads to cognitive blindness. When System Two is engaged, it essentially blocks out everything around it. One experiment conducted requires test subjects to watch a video. Subjects were asked to track how many times the men in white shirts pass the ball while men in black shirts passed through the background. Keeping track of how many passes take place while ignoring the men in black shirts requires close attention to detail, a job for System Two. Experimenters then had a man in a gorilla suit pass through the background; it came at no surprise to them when the test subjects did not notice. System Two can be beneficial in new situations that require developed responses but it uses so much energy and concentration that it can shut out other thoughts.
System One and System Two differ in that System One relies on heuristics whereas System Two works in a diligent and well-thought out manner. Studies have shown how routinely heuristics can be made. Another study presents the word vomit and banana next to each other on a screen to a test subject. The words do not evoke initial reactions because the words had no previous association. However, the new association develops a short distaste to bananas. Even the sight or mention of one can cause nausea. This shows System Two interpreting two words and creating a relationship between them and then putting it in long term memory, which allows System One to use that heuristic at its leisure.
When playing lacrosse, one can use System Two to program responses for System One, leading to a more relaxed way of thinking during games. If the two systems are able to work together, they can condition System One’s decision making to be more accurate. In any task, the more skilled someone becomes, less energy is required to complete that task. Similarly, the more talented one becomes in lacrosse, the less mental energy is required to play. Unfamiliar circumstances occur often in lacrosse. One moment you are using System One and running down the field with unprotected grass ahead, and the next you are in a difficult situation you have not yet experienced, needing to use System Two to make a decision. Being focused and aware of your surroundings at all times is essential which is why System Two becomes relied upon. There are 19 other players on the field constantly moving and making plays, which makes System One not reliable enough to recognize, process, and decide what to do in a timely and accurate manner.
Using System One and System Two thinking in the most effective way possible while playing lacrosse could greatly benefit players. With the knowledge of heuristics lacrosse players could adapt their training to benefit them during games. If players are able to program System One responses using System Two logic in practice, players would be able to remain in System One thinking during games. The ability to recognize when you are using System One or System Two in certain situations would help avoid unnecessary errors.
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