Dual Process Theory

The dual process theory is a cognitive psychology theory that explains the different levels of information processing in individuals. It is used in many different psychological fields including social, cognitive, and clinical psychology. Early dual process theories were proposed by the philosopher and psychologist William James and has been developed and elaborated over time with the current view of this theory being formalized in the 1990s. Dual process theory divides the processing of information into two pathways.

The first pathway is system 1 processing which is very fast, automatic, involuntary. It is an unconscious process that we are not in control of. Information processed in this automatic manner lacks specific details and context.

The second pathway is system 2 processing which is slow, deliberate, and voluntary. It is a conscious process in that we are aware that the processing is occurring. Working memory is used in system 2 processing and information is explicit and more detailed than in system 1 processing.

We use both systems of processing to learn and process information. In social psychology dual process is used in judgments about situations and other people which can influence stereotypical thinking and beliefs in the accuracy of information learned from others.

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