Formulation Fun #1

September 24, 2020

Note: I wrote this for myself. Some of it probably won’t make sense, and some of it is probably wrong/demonstrates a poor approach.

Also: This is a small snippet. The book provides more context, which would make it easier to formulate items and increase their likelihood of being factually accurate. That is not the point of this exercise.

Source: Thinking in Bets - Annie Duke

Automatic processing originates in the evolutionarily older parts of the brain, including the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and amygdala. Our deliberative mind operates out of the prefrontal cortex.

The first sentence is a list. The list is saying two things:

  1. All of these parts are involved with automatic processing. NB: It is not saying these are all the parts, just some
  2. All of these parts are old

The second sentence, contrasted with the first, is implying two things:

  1. “deliberative” is the opposite of “automatic.”
  2. The prefrontal cortex is new (or at least newer than the cerebellum, etc.)

The first sentence uses the word “originates,” while the second sentence uses the word “operates.” Without a deep understanding of the neuroscience, one assumes they have the same meaning.

The use of the word “evolutionarily” is unnecessary for anybody who is even roughly familiar with the timescale of evolution, as it is clear she does not mean new as in “it came out recently.”

We don’t know whether the “old” brain regions listed deal exclusively with automatic processing, so we cannot make items such as:

Q: The amygdala deals with […](automatic\deliberative) processing

A: automatic

Since the list of old brain regions is incomplete (and because a complete list would be too long to remember), we cannot make an item like:

Q: list the regions of the brain involved with automatic processing

However, we can have an item like this, where any answer will do:

Q: name an example of a brain region which is involved with automatic processing (of information)

A: amygdala, basal ganglia, cerebellum

The terms “automatic processing” and “deliberative mind” are a bit unwieldy and idiosyncratic. If familiar with Thinking, Fast and Slow, we can swap those terms out for System 1 and System 2. In this context, I’m not a huge fan, since it goes beyond the scope of pure thinking about formulation. However, if you can do it, using prior knowledge is fantastic. I have even done it accidentally with the term “brain regions” in this text.

Let’s rephrase, taking these ideas into account:

  1. “System 1” and “System 2” are suitable synonyms for “automatic processing” and “deliberative mind” (respectively) since they use prior knowledge.
  2. “evolutionarily” is implied with “older.”
  3. “originates in” and “operates out of” can probably be replaced with “uses” without losing much meaning.
  4. For the sake of this text, we don’t know whether System 2 uses more than just the prefrontal cortex, so we will hedge and say “primarily.”

System 1 uses older parts of the brain, including the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and amygdala. System 2 primarily uses the prefrontal cortex.


After this thinking and rephrasing, here are a few example items we could use (incomplete list):

Q: neuro: System 1 uses relatively […](old\new) parts of the brain

A: old (such as the cerebellum, basal ganglia, amygdala)

Q: neuro: The cerebellum is relatively […](old\new)

A: old

Q: neuro: The basal ganglia is relatively […](old\new)

A: old

Q: neuro: The amygdala is relatively […](old\new)

A: old

Q: When we say one brain region is older than another, we mean it on […] scale

A: an evolutionary

Q: Annie Duke uses the term “automatic mind” for what Kahneman would call ”[…]”

A: System 1

Q: Annie Duke uses the term “deliberative mind” for what Kahneman would call ”[…]”

A: System 2

Q: name a brain region used by System 1

A: (basal ganglia, amygdala, cerebellum)

Q: System 2 primarily uses what brain region?

A: (the) prefrontal cortex

Q: System 2 uses relatively […](old\new) parts of the brain

A: new (primarily the prefrontal cortex)

Q: neuro: The prefrontal cortex is relatively […](new\old)

A: new

Q: neuro: Which one uses newer parts of the brain: System 1 or System 2?

A: System 2