Have you ever heard of the concept of Cow trails? When looking at a field where cows often graze you’ll begin to notice trails that there is no longer growth possible. This is because Cows take the path of least resistance. Day after day they follow this easy trail because it requires less work. “That cow trail represents our thoughts. Over time, we develop patterns of thought in our brains and those patterns beat down a trail making it difficult for us to think and feel differently.” When reading Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow, it reminded me of this concept of the cow trail as it relates to system 1 which is the part of the brain that “operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control” . Like Kahneman’s explanation of our automatic brain, we do the easy thing, the thing that does not require thought. This way of thinking could be helpful like the article relating with Cow trails, we have a patterned way of thinking or responding that leads us down the same thought trail. What if we were able to change the pattern or conditioned response that is part of our bad habits, or like this article it was a way through mental illness.
“A happy mood loosens the control of system 2 over performance: When in a good mood, people become more intuitive and more creative but also less vigilant and more prone to logical errors”. “System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration” . In a video I watched regarding this concept of thinking fast and slow they gave an example of how easy it is to fall into system 1 thinking. They had a picture of a baseball and a bat and said it was $1.10. They noted that the bat was a dollar more than the ball. So how much is each item? If you land in the cow trail way of thinking like me you answered $.10 for the ball and the bat $1.00 Guess what, we are wrong. I will bribe you to read the rest of this essay by giving you the answer at the end.
This is one of those books that I’ve had to rethink and rethink, and just when I feel I have an idea of what it is about, I lose it. I tend to be a person who functions in my cow trail mind. Thankfully I feel I’ve had a good childhood with very few trauma’s that maybe would’ve set up cowtrails in my brain for responding to hardships and difficulties a certain way, but gratefully I think overall I have healthy cowtrail type of response. In fact I pride myself in making decisions with my gut and not my head. So in some ways I had a hard time wanting to throw that way of being out as ineffective system1. I wonder if it comes down to trust in one’s self? Does it have something to do with genetic predisposition of well being? Why do I feel resistance to logic? Last week we talked about Empathy in Failure of Nerve by Friedman, engaging our feelings to try to understand how someone else may be feeling. What if encountering another’s suffering can be done with empathy AND logic? Slowing our thinking down to fully engage in another’s suffering or problem, and using our slow system 2 way of thinking to disengage our thinking of the situation, and setting that aside to be there in their thoughts. I’m think I need to wrestle through that statement more to make sense, but I feel I’m on the verge of a brilliant thought there. As Kahneman says “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it”. And I think I am officially done thinking about it, for now.
System 2 Answer: If the bat is $1.00 more than the ball and they cost $1.10 together, then the ball is $.05 and the bat is $1.05! D’oh!
 Bierdeman, Janelle. Cow Trails and the Brain: Making Sense of Mental Health Treatment. Linkedin, 9/6,2018.
 Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking Fast and Slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. Pg 20
 Ibid, 69.
 Ibid, 21.
 Ibid, 402.