This question is related to this one: How long can a person stay happy, excited and motivated about something new?

I found a couple of references to research that links "thinking fast" to mood lift: Speed of thinking and mood lift From what I've read so far on how the body/brain works, there are several examples of "negative feedback" to maintain homeostasis. This is the first example of something that can be considered "positive feedback", and it intrigues me.

I'm wondering what are the parts of a brain or neurotransmitters that are involved in "thinking fast"?


To clarify the question - by thinking fast I mean engaging in a train of thought that is self-reinforcing, self sustained and directed. For example, thinking of a project at work, then of all the people who you can involve, then of all the improvements that can be made, of the outcome that can take place, of success, what you can do next, etc.

This kind of thinking pattern introduces numerous related targets for attention, and attention can quickly switch between trains of thought. At the same time, the majority of attention is occupied by a single idea or project that has multiple branching trains of thought associated with it. In poetic terms, the brain is weaving a pattern or a web of thought.

This creates a state where the brain cannot process the entire idea/project/concept at the same time, forcing it to "think faster", and do more switching between related branched trains of thought.

  • $\begingroup$ is there any reason to believe 'thinking fast' is the product of particular brain areas or neurotransmitters? $\endgroup$
    – Jeff
    Nov 10, 2012 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeff Yes, provided that "thinking fast" is following Kahneman's use. Dual-process theory holds that people have a fast, automatic process and a slow, controlled process for decision-making, much like the two-streams hypothesis holds that visual perception has a fast "where" pathway and a slow "what" pathway. $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2013 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @ChristianHummeluhr I'm very familiar with dual-process theory, but a) it's not clear that OP is using this definition, rather than more generically "doing the same task faster" without engaging in system 2 processing. b) You can apply the sys1/sys2 dichotomy to innumerable tasks that involve various brain areas and neurotransmitters. I'm not sure why you'd expect a particular neurotransmitter to always be associated with System 2 processing. I think this may be a good question, but it needs more clarification and prior research. $\endgroup$
    – Jeff
    Mar 31, 2013 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeff Haha, sorry, I actually didn't mean to imply you aren't familiar with dual-process theory at all! It's become second nature to give a quick description of a theory or view whenever I use it. The question could definitely be clearer, though. $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2013 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff I think that your comments are effectively an answer along the lines of: "Here is some background on dual-process theory, which is what people usually associate with 'thinking fast'. Based on this, there is no reason to believe that there is a single area or pathway responsible for this, here are some examples." It would be a good addition to the site, and I would upvote it. $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2013 at 17:50