EMPHASIS ON CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS IN LEGAL AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE EDUCATION

There is a strong emphasis on critical thinking and other analytical thought processes in law schools and criminal justice programs. These thought processes are also essential for personal and professional life. I do not claim that law school and criminal justice programs should do anything to diminish the development of these skills. I do argue that other ways of thinking, including rapid cognition, should also have an important place in the curriculum. Despite the importance of rapid cognition for human thinking, it has a marginal role in the law and criminal justice classrooms.

Given the fact that most of our cognitive processes and most of our decisions in life are generated through rapid cognition rather than System 2 thinking, we should proactively help our students educate then rapid cognition skills alongside critical thinking and other analytical reasoning skills.

Similar to critical thinking, rapid cognition may lead to conect decisions in many cases. In other situations, rapid cognition, just like critical thinking and other thinking processes, can lead to faulty conclusions and decisions. A lawyer may have a feeling that her client is telling her the truth, but he may be lying to her. A police officer may have a hunch that the suspect was involved in a crime, but the officer may be wrong. Also, just like you can teach critical thinking skills and other analytical thought processes to students, you can also help your students educate their rapid cognition processes through a wide range of interventions and strategies (Hogarth, 2003). Like for analytical thought processes and the development of professional skills and substantive knowledge, popular culture also plays an important role in the education of rapid cognition.

EDUCATING RAPID COGNITION

One of the most important aspects to help students develop effective rapid cognition processes is to practice rapid cognition decisions in authentic or recreated professional settings. You learn how to think intuitively like an experienced criminal lawyer or as an expert parole officer by carrying out the activities that criminal lawyers and parole officers cany out and by immersing yourself in their professional environments. Rapid cognition is developed mainly through tacit learning. Learners pick up the behaviors, attitudes, styles, jargon, and even gestures of those around them. Through exposure to these stimuli, people learn to react like those whom they are in contact with, provided that they are intrinsically motivated and that they do not experience negative effects wdiile exposed to those stimuli (Hogarth, 2003).1 Learning in the courtroom or police headquarters is ideal, but it is

Hogarth (2003) suggests seven guidelines to educate intuition. These are “(i) select and/or create our environments (apprenticeship model); (ii) seek feedback; (iii) impose circuit breakers; (iv) acknowledge emotions; (v) explore connections; (vi) accept conflict in choice; and (vii) make scientific method intuitive.” also possible to learn to improve the effectiveness of rapid cognition by recreating these environments in the classroom.

Learning the discipline is also an essential aspect of rapid cognition. The more and the deeper you know about law or criminal justice the better rapid cognitive decisions you can take. Those who have a vast knowledge, whether developed by conscious learning, tacit learning, or—even better—a combmation of both, are the ones who can make the best intuitive decisions. Since the rapid and the analytical thought systems communicate with each other in our brains, what was once the domain of analytical thinking can become the terrain of rapid cognition (Hogarth, 2003). For example, when a police officer drives a police car to chase a suspect for the first time, he or she will have to consciously think analytically about the car chase. When that professional gains more experience, he or she will probably be able to pursue the suspect using System 1 thought processes. If the chase becomes extraordinary, then that police officer may change back to System 2 thinking.

Feedback is an essential aspect of the whole deep-learning process. It is also central in the education of rapid cognition. Obtaining timely feedback about our intuitive decisions helps us improve future rapid cognition decisions. For example, suppose that a parole officer makes an intuitive prediction that a parolee will not jump parole, based only on a quick glance at the parolee’s file and a brief observation of the parolee in person. Then, let’s assume that the parolee gets intoxicated and breaks the terms of parole. The parole officer receives information (feedback) about the violation of the parole. In the future, when the parole officer gets a new parolee with some similar characteristics and history as that parolee, the parole officer may predict that this time the new parolee will also jump parole. The more feedback one receives about one’s rapid cognitive decisions, the more educated the future intuitive decisions will be.

Another factor that is closely connected to feedback is metacogni-tion, which I will fully develop in Chapter 7. Succinctly, metacognition consists of reflecting about one’s own leanring process through—general and discipline-specific—categories of analysis. For rapid cognitive thought processes, general categories of analysis include the knowledge of how System 1 thinking operates and how human beings make rapid cognitive decisions. Students need to be aware of the existing of both analytical and rapid cognition models. They need to know how we reach intuitive conclusions and how we make decisions based on the information we process rapidly. They need to be aware of “the circumstances in which intuitive errors are probable” and how to prevent them (Kahneman, 2011).

It is also important for an effective metacognitive reflection to be aware of the role that life stories play in rapid cognition. Life stories are fundamental in the way we perceive and evaluate others (Quintana, 2015). Most decisions involving other people, which in many cases may be the majority of the decisions one takes in the professional world, are based on the life stories of those about whom we have to make a decision. In other words, we judge other people by their life stories. When their life stories fit with our own stories, we value them positively. If they do not fit, we instinctively tend to reject them and disvalue them (Schank, 2000). To go back to one of the previous examples, a job interviewer selects a candidate because he or she understands and likes the candidate’s life story.

Another aspect of the metacognition process is the need to be aware of biases in mental processes. A bias is a phenomenon that distorts the cognitive process and leads to erroneous conclusions and decisions. A bias that is specific to the rapid cognition process is known as the “sampling of connections between events” (Hogarth, 2003). This bias consists of extrapolating situations, beliefs, and ideas that apply in one context to another context where they do not apply. For example, suppose that an experienced tax attorney who practices in the state of New York is very effective in recognizing fraud by merely looking at a taxpayer’s tax return for a few minutes. If that same tax attorney looks at a Canadian tax return and concludes that the Canadian taxpayer committed fraud, the tax attorney’s conclusion may be wrong if the fraud offense in Canada differs from the fraud crime in New York.

Another strategy that helps make rapid cognitive thought processes more effectively is a technique used by actors when they prepare for an acting role. While reading a text such as a play or a script for a film or TV show, the actor starts from his or her visceral, instinctive response to the text and “must reject intellectual choices at the beginning of his or her work” (Guskin, 2003). We can adapt this technique to the law and criminal justice classrooms. We can ask students to read a file, such as the presentence report or the deposition of a witness, and tell us their instinctive evaluations about the file. If they try to shift to analytical reasoning, like acting coaches or theater directors, we should help them reject that line of reasoning and help them go back to the rapid cognition mode.

 
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