The Tri-Process Model of Cognition and the Mind’s Three Distinctive Functions

To flesh out the Tri-Process Model of Cognition (see the immediately preceding post) it is helpful to discuss it in terms of the Mind’s Three Distinctive Functions (2002). These three basic functions are thinking, feeling, and wanting. Thinking creates meaning, makes sense of our lives, and of specific subjects and interests. Judging, perceiving, analyzing, clarifying, determining, comparing, and synthesizing are all acts of thinking. Feeling tells us not only how we are feeling, but how we are doing. We can be happy, sad, depressed, anxious, stressed, calm, worried, excited, and so forth. Wanting is what motivates us and drives us to act as we do. Goals, desires, purposes, agendas, values, and motives are all components of wanting. And wanting leads to our doing. All four of these functions interact with each other.

What is important is that feelings and desires (wanting) do not correct themselves. They can be changed only through our thinking. Thinking is key to controlling feeling and wanting, and by taking command of our thinking we can take command of all three functions of the mind and our lives. So we need to control our thinking.

Now how do the three distinctive functions of the mind map on to the Tri-Process Model of Cognition? Emotions (feelings) are clearly a System 1 process for Kahneman, and what Stanovich calls the autonomous mind. I would also argue that wanting is also primarily a System 1 or autonomous function. Remember that according to Kahneman, one of the roles of System 2 is to monitor and correct the output of System 1. For Stanovich, it is the role of both the algorithmic and the reflective mind to monitor and correct the output of the autonomous mind. Both Kahneman and Stanovich are saying that thinking needs to control out emotions and wants.

Often it is not clear how to control our emotions. We cannot let them take control us, we need to control them. We need to invoke mindfulness (enter “mindfulness” into the healthymemory blog search block). Here is an excerpt from the healthymemory blog post, “A Simple Tip to Spark Mindfulness”: “An easy way to remember how to be mindful in the course of a busy day, or when you are overwhelmed, preoccupied, worried, angry, or uncomfortable, is the acronym mnemonic STOP”

S – Stop. Simply pause from what you are doing.
T -Take a few slow, deep breaths with awareness and tune in.
O – Observe and curiously notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
P – Proceed with whatever you were doing with awareness and kindness.”

It is also important to invoke the reflective mind. “Reflective” refers to the purpose of the reflective mind and that is to reflect upon our own thinking. It is essential to how effectively we control our wants, govern our own lives, and interact with others. It is essential for effective critical thinking.

Paul. R.W., & Elder, L. (2002). Critical Thinking. Pearson Education, Inc.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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