The Sock

Lone, Sad Sock. Copyright 2013 Edward Giles Brown. All Rights Reserved.

One can hope that in life when we read books that we learn something. Recently something happened which I believe shows that I have at least learned something small, if not by osmosis.

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow is a landmark book that discusses two different minds we seem to have, or more correctly, two different ways of thinking. One is automatic, and the second is more deliberate. I won’t go into the gory details of the book because I would do it a disservice and you really should get his book and read it. He’s the worlds leading social psychologist (rivaled only perhaps by Baumeister) and has the Nobel Prize in Economics. At any rate…

One thing that we learn from Kahneman is that we are often on auto-pilot, doing without thinking. Or to put it a different way, engaging in automatic thinking. Recently I found myself doing so. It was a small thing, but I caught myself, and was able to stop myself from behaving foolishly. Here are the details:

Not long ago I lost a sock. I’m not sure where it went to, perhaps the dryer goblin ate it up. Anyhow, one morning as I was getting ready to go to the gym, I put on a sock, and it tore. I guess I run very hard in them because the fabric had worn through. I looked up on my dresser and saw the sock that had lost its other, the lone sock, the sad sock. Being that the lone, sad sock was a sports sock matching the kind I’d just tore, my automatic brain said something like this to me,

well, you might as well throw that lone, sad sock away now, and pair it up with this now useless and torn sock.

I went to the dresser and fetched the sock, and was about to throw the lone, sad sock away when it occurred to me…WAIT…you now can pair the lone, sad sock up with the other one that’s now on your foot.

I cannot explain the reasoning (or lack thereof) employed by the automatic thinking of my brain (mind 1), nor can I explain exactly what set off the more analytic part of my brain (mind 2). What benefit did mind 1 see in getting rid of the lone, sad sock? Perhaps in an effort to make things tidy? To be rid of the lone, sad sock which was laying there on the dresser, reminding me every day that it was sad and alone? Obviously, the more analytic brain had a better solution. And I can honestly say that lone, sad sock is sad and lonely no more, and perfectly happy to have a companion again.

Please share with me your stories of automatic thinking. Did you succumb to it? Did you thwart it? Life, and the mind, are infinitely interesting.

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