Heuristics and Cognitive Biases

While reading Daniel Kahneman’s work, I came across the science of Heuristics. Heuristics or the technique of heuristic employs a practical method not necessarily optimal or perfect, but sufficient enough for immediate goals. It also leads to cognitive biases.

Herbert Simon, in the 1950s, was the first psychologist to suggest that while people strive to make rational choices, human judgment is subject to cognitive limitations. Later, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in the 1970s presented their research on the cognitive biases that influence how people think and the judgments people make. When I was reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I was indeed fascinated by how this psychologist duo conducted numerous researches in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and succeeded to put forward the science of Heuristics and its impacts on our judgments and decision-making. While Tversky died in 1966, Kahneman went on to publish their research and later developed more theories on Cognitive Psychology.

How Heuristics lead to Cognitive biases, however, is easy to understand if we identify the technique of heuristics as the limitations that we are forced to rely on, as the mental shortcuts which help us make sense of the world. While Simon’s research demonstrated how humans were limited in their cognitive ability to make rational judgments and decisions, Tversky and Kahneman’s work introduced the very specific ways of thinking humans tend to rely on in order to simplify their decision-making process.

According to psychologists, we use Heuristics for a) effort reduction due to our cognitive laziness, b) attribute substitution due to substituting simpler questions with the difficult ones and c) because of heuristics being fast, immediate and frugal. We use these heuristics in our day-to-day life to keep up with the enormous amount of data we encounter because they help to speed up our decision-making process. In short, Heuristics are the mental strategies that our brain relies on to simplify things and speed up our decision-making process in order to avoid spending an endless amount of time by analyzing every detail. For example, an availability heuristic lets a person judge a situation on the basis of examples of other similar situations that comes to the mind of the person, therefore, allowing the person to hypothesize the situation in which they find themselves.

I think this connects directly to Kahneman’s work in Thinking Fast and Slow, i.e., the workings of the two systems of our cognitive mind (System 1 making these heuristical decisions because we tend to avoid putting System 2 to work). What is System 1 and System 2? Simply put, these two systems represent two distinct modes of decision making i.e., System 1 is an automatic, fast and often unconscious way of thinking, therefore, it is autonomous and efficient and hence, requires less energy or attention and is prone to cognitive biases. Meanwhile, System 2 represents an effortful, slow and a controlled way of thinking.

Heuristics are divided into three kinds i.e., a) the Availability heuristics, b) the representativeness heuristics that involves making a decision by comparing the present situation to the most representative mental prototype and, c) the Affect heuristics that involves making choices that are strongly influenced by the emotions that an individual is experiencing at that moment.

While reading about this, I quickly realized its connection to Critical Thinking and how this bias is a possible measure of Critical Thinking itself. I think heuristics, as they are associated with our thinking dispositions along with our cognitive ability, is precisely the reason why we almost necessarily require critical thinking skills in life. Not because some of us are unable to think critically in a short span of time, but because the human cognitive system is designed to rely upon system 1 by default rather than system 2. It is upon the humans to realize and overcome these biases by understanding the significance of system 2. To understand why our unconscious mind affects our System 1, I think reading Leonard Mlodinow’s work might give the necessary reason and perception.

– Sanjana Singh







Gnostic Principle of Polarity

The Kybalion was written by the three initiates which includes the seven Hermetic principles that are the magical laws that govern the universe, but these laws are almost present in all things around us and are very less exclusive to magic itself.

The fourth Hermetic principle is known as the principle of polarity wherein all manifested things showcase two major degrees. Although this should not be confused as having two different things in entirety, as this principle emphasizes the nature of a thing having two contrasting degrees. The art of mental alchemy emerges from this very principle wherein an individual can experience this transition in degrees to his/her advantage, and therefore, better their experience of reality.

For example, “thesis and anti-thesis are identical in nature, but different in degree”; “Heat and Cold are identical in nature, the differences being merely a matter of degree”; “Light and Darkness are poles of the same thing, with many degrees between them”.

“Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites.” ~The Kybalion, Polarity: The Fourth Hermetic Principle

Being an individual who is heavily amused by the role of emotions in human beings, I find the connection of the principle of polarity to emotions deeply fascinating. The aspect of Love and Hate with regards to emotions are usually considered direct opposites of each other and are usually the mental states to which most are slaves. What this Hermetic principle can teach us today is that if one is able to firstly, understand that these two simply mental poles of the same thing as there are two degrees and a middle point where “like” and “dislike” reach a thin line, and hence, it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two. And secondly, if one is able to master this art of mental alchemy i.e., by will able to change and move between the two mental poles- he/she can be forever free to be the masters of their own mental states, which I believe is an achievement that would be useful when climbing the ladder to Maslow’s Self-Actualisation. The Pairs of Opposites exist everywhere, as nature of everything constitutes of two contrasting degrees on both the ends of the scale. Things that are a part of two distinct classes cannot be transmuted into each other, but only things belonging to the same class may have their polarity changed. And therefore, with this, an Hetmetist can transmute from one mental state to the other upon the degrees of Polarization as North never becomes Love or Hate, or Green or Red, but it may and often turn into South and vice-versa.

– Sanjana Singh





Alchemy, Mysticism and the Transmutable Truth

The Philosophers Hand
The Hand of the Mysteries (Artist Unknown) The key in the philosophers’ hand represents mysteries themselves, without whose aid man cannot unlock numerous chambers of his own being.

Ancient understandings of alchemy relied on chemistry to walk upon the path that leads to the truth which many in history mistook as the search of the elixir of immortality or the lust for the alchemical gold. This misunderstanding arose from the self’s lust for a valuable experience of reality. Mysticism, in essence, as opposed to its religious or shamanic definition, pertains to a kind of knowledge that unifies the self with the highest power. A mystic walks on the path of a spiritual quest i.e., the hunt for the truth in order to accomplish its union with the highest power. While the wide gap between the hunt of truth and the hunt of value began to be misinterpreted, the real essence of Alchemy and Mysticism got lost and took refuge in the shade of faith and institutions.

The intriguing connection of the self with the cosmos of the universe and its intrinsic exploitation to the self’s mundane gain seems complex but might just be a simple intuitive key that the self unlocks as an understanding that exceeds its temporal view and leads the self to realize the significance of the hunt for the truth as opposed to the hunt for value.

This truth, or the philosophers’ truth, perhaps seems to me as transmutable. The truth seems to be transmutable as the self on the path leading to it fixates itself in the loop of new discoveries and annulment of old notions of knowledge. The alchemical treatises consist of several varieties of enigmatic symbolism and allegories whose meaning seems transcendental in nature and could only be grasped subjectively. The knowledge amounts to nothing unless grasped by an observer at which point it takes on a form.

As close the self gets to the core of the truth, that distant it seems. The truth has never been held on to, as there has not been a mystery, so long as our eyes have been open and our minds wandered. As this quest for truth is nothing but a mere hope that we may grasp something corporeal in this life which might affirm that there is a purpose and an order.

The Hunt for truth is a routine of the discipline where the self persistently discovers and grasps new knowledge and epiphanies, and with this wisdom, the self then transcends into intellectualvision.

– Sanjana Singh


The Woman wearing Khamsa of the Phoenician Goddess ~ bliss in the Himalayas.



wandering around the stretch near the Himalayas

my eyes gaze upon the divine woman wearing the Khamsa

the amulet of the Goddess Tanit of Phoenicia hanging from the black thread tied around her neck


her eyes of innocence now glaring at me as she struggles to push her bag out the door

elegantly dragging her valise, she passes me a smile and strolls around the valley


her blonde hair fitting well with the wild rose in the valley, lighting up my eyes with an aesthetic so pure

that I surrender my self into the charisma of the Himalayan region, Himadri, and Bahirgiri.

– itsa2amgrunge





The Temple of Transcendence

the transcendentalist

whilst finding the self within the loneliness

visits the temple of transcendence

in the psychic world of the northern sky.


after doubting the heuristics of the decision

the transcendentalist sits in sukhasana

and within a second, as the eyes shut its doors of visionary perception,

she transcends the boundaries that keep the soul separate from the whole.


the subconscious state, now dancing in the loop of the dream world and illusionary thought,

finally breaks down the false idols of all description.

the transcendentalist, now on her feet, makes way to the universal ocean of completeness.