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Intuitive Guidance: Emotion, Information, and Experience
The Question of Psychological Realism—Could We Really Be Homo prospectus?
The reader may by now feel a growing skepticism: If prospection is such a fundamental feature of the architecture of the human mind, and if a prospective mind proceeds by acquiring information to generate and evaluate diverse possible future courses of action, then why does our actual psychological life seem so different from this? Why does everyday thinking seem to be so preoccupied with the present moment and the recent past, devoting so little time to any explicit planning for the future? Often one thing just runs into another, and we operate in a manner that seems to be largely a mixture of habit (when things are familiar) and guesswork (when they are not). And even when we stop to make a decision with an eye toward the future, we seldom consider more than one or two alternatives, without attempting anything like a systematic accounting of the benefits, costs, and risks of the options before us. One might strengthen this last point: Hasn't psychology over the last several decades told us that people are conspicuously weak at the rational estimation of probabilities or the coherent comparison of expected values over time? And finally, if we're so smart, why ain't we rich? Humans—individually, socially, and globally—seem to be plagued with the regrettable consequences that result from failure to think ahead.
Is our notion of prospection, therefore, simply psychologically unrealistic? In Chapter 1, we drew attention to some of the core components of prospective guidance of action, but it was more by storytelling than hard evidence. And we did not spell out how ordinary conscious experience might relate to the prospective processes we mentioned. In this chapter, we will begin to remedy these defects, providing a fuller picture of the psychology of Homo prospectus, trying to make him or her more recognizable in our own lived experience.
Our explanation will involve three key elements and their related challenges:
Yet the amount of information we can take in, hold in active awareness, or retain for any length of time, seems much more limited. In ordinary thought and action, we seem to rely excessively on the most recent information or unrepresentative scraps from the past or to fall back on a limited array of basic schemes, rules of thumb, or habitual responses.
What do intuition, affect, and information have to do with one another, and how do they fit into the picture of Homo prospectus?
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