Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 40 Number 2 2023 pp. 580-623

Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow: Digital Devices’ Effects on Cognitive Reflection

Figl, Kathrin and Remus, Ulrich


Informed by theoretical perspectives on working memory demands and devices’ potential to “prime” different types of cognitive processing, this paper investigates whether we tend to think “faster” and more intuitively, with less reflection when we use a smartphone instead of a personal computer (PC) or notebook. Three complementary experimental studies with a total of 823 participants reveal that the results of using such devices surface only when participants can select the smartphone as their preferred device. Controlling for potential confounding variables reveals no evidence of general differences between devices. Our findings caution against overemphasizing the importance of the type of device in thinking slow or fast and establish self-selection bias as an important factor in explaining such differences. This study contributes to clarifying the psychology of smartphone screens and how humans make choices when they are using these devices.

Key words and phrases: Smartphones, dual-process theories, IT device differences, thinking fast vs. slow, Type 1 and 2 cognitive processing, working memory