Thinking, Fast and Slow Info

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Major New York Times bestseller
Winner of the
National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award in 2012
Selected by the
New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of
2011
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title
One
of The Economist's 2011 Books of the Year
One of The Wall
Street Journal
's Best Nonfiction Books of the Year 2011
2013
Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient
Kahneman's work with Amos
Tversky is the subject of Michael Lewis's The Undoing Project: A
Friendship That Changed Our Minds

In the international
bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the
renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes
us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems
that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional;
System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of
overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting
what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive
biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next
vacation―each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two
systems shape our judgments and decisions.

Engaging the reader in a
lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can
and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of
slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how
choices are made in both our business and our personal lives―and how we
can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that
often get us into trouble. Winner of the National Academy of Sciences
Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and selected by
The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of
2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow is destined to be a
classic.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Thinking, Fast and Slow:

5

March 15, 2012

Annotations on Kahneman's table of contents - a survey of logic and illogic
When you come late to the party, writing the 160th review, you have a certain freedom to write something as much for your own use as for other readers, confident that the review will be at the bottom of the pile.

Kahneman's thesis is that the human animal is systematically illogical. Not only do we mis-assess situations, but we do so following fairly predictable patterns. Moreover, those patterns are grounded in our primate ancestry.

The first observation, giving the title to the book, is that eons of natural selection gave us the ability to make a fast reaction to a novel situation. Survival depended on it. So, if we hear an unnatural noise in the bushes, our tendency is to run. Thinking slow, applying human logic, we might reflect that it is probably Johnny coming back from the Girl Scout camp across the river bringing cookies, and that running might not be the best idea. However, fast thinking is hardwired.

The first part of the book is dedicated to a description of the two systems, the fast and slow system. Kahneman introduces them in his first chapter as system one and system two.

Chapter 2 talks about the human energy budget. Thinking is metabolically expensive; 20 percent of our energy intake goes to the brain. Moreover, despite what your teenager tells you, dedicating energy to thinking about one thing means that energy is not available for other things. Since slow thinking is expensive, the body is programmed to avoid it.

Chapter 3 expands on this notion of the lazy controller. We don't invoke our slow thinking, system two machinery unless it is needed. It is expensive. As an example, try multiplying two two-digit numbers in your head while you are running. You will inevitably slow down. NB: Kahneman uses the example of multiplying two digit numbers in your head quite frequently. Most readers don't know how to do this. Check out "The Secrets of Mental Math" for techniques. Kahneman and myself being slightly older guys, we probably like to do it just to prove we still can. Whistling past the graveyard - we know full well that mental processes slow down after 65.

Chapter 4 - the associative machine - discusses the way the brain is wired to automatically associate words with one another and concepts with one another, and a new experience with a recent experience. Think of it as the bananas vomit chapter. Will you think of next time you see a banana?

Chapter 5 - cognitive ease. We are lazy. We don't solve the right problem, we solve the easy problem.

Chapter 6 - norms, surprises, and causes. A recurrent theme in the book is that although our brains do contain a statistical algorithm, it is not very accurate. It does not understand the normal distribution. We are inclined to expect more regularity than actually exists in the world, and we have poor intuition about the tail ends of the bell curve. We have little intuition at all about non-Gaussian distributions.

Chapter 7 - a machine for jumping to conclusions. He introduces a recurrent example. A ball and bat together cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? System one, fast thinking, leaps out with an answer which is wrong. It requires slow thinking to come up with the right answer - and the instinct to distrust your intuition.

Chapter 8 - how judgments happen. Drawing parallels across domains. If Tom was as smart as he is tall, how smart would he be?

Chapter 9 - answering an easier question. Some questions have no easy answer. "How do you feel about yourself these days?" Is harder to answer than "did you have a date last week?" If the date question is asked first, it primes an answer for the harder question.

Section 2 - heuristics and biases

Chapter 10 - the law of small numbers. In the realm of statistics there is a law of large numbers. The larger the sample size, the more accurate the statistical inference from measuring them. Conversely, a small sample size can be quite biased. I was in a study abroad program with 10 women, three of them over six feet. Could I generalize about the women in the University of Maryland student body? Conversely, I was the only male among 11 students and the only one over 60. Could they generalize anything from that? In both cases, not much.

Chapter 11 - anchors. A irrelevant notion is a hard thing to get rid of. For instance, the asking price of the house should have nothing to do with its value, but it does greatly influence bids.

Chapter 12 - the science of availability. If examples come easily to mind, we are more inclined to believe the statistic. If I know somebody who got mugged last year, and you don't, my assessment of the rate of street crime will probably be too high, and yours perhaps too low. Newspaper headlines distort all of our thinking about the probabilities of things like in and terrorist attacks. Because we read about it, it is available.

Chapter 13 - availability, emotion and risk. Continuation.

Chapter 14 - Tom W's specialty. This is about the tendency for stereotypes to override statistics. If half the students in the University area education majors, and only a 10th of a percent study mortuary science, the odds are overwhelming that any individual student is an education major. Nonetheless, if you ask about Tom W, a sallow gloomy type of guy, people will ignore the statistics and guess he is in mortuary science.

Chapter 15 - less is more. Linda is described as a very intelligent and assertive woman. What are the odds she is a business major? The odds that she is a feminist business major? Despite the mathematical impossibility, most people will think that the odds of the latter are greater than the former.

Chapter 16 - causes trump statistics. The most important aspect of this chapter is Bayesian analysis, which is so much second nature to Kahneman that he doesn't even describe it. The example he gives is a useful illustration.
* 85% of the cabs in the city are green, and 15% are blue.
* A witness identified the cab involved in a hit and run as blue.
* The court tested the witness' reliability, and the witness was able to correctly identify the correct color 80% of the time, and failed 20% of the time.
First, to go to the point. Given these numbers, most people will assume that the cab in the accident was blue because of the witness testimony. However, if we change the statement of the problem so that there is a 20% chance that the blue identification of the color was wrong, but 85% of the cabs involved in accidents are green, people will overwhelmingly say that the cab in the accident was a green madman. The problems are mathematically identical but the opinion is different.
Now the surprise. The correct answer is that there is a 41% chance that the cab involved in the accident was blue. Here's how we figure it out from Bayes theorem.
If the cab was blue, a 15% chance, and correctly identified, an 80% chance, the combined probability is .15 * .8 = .12, a 12% chance
If the cab was green, an 85% chance, and incorrectly identified, a 20% chance, the combined probability is .85 * .2 = .17, a 17% chance
Since the cab had to be either blue or green, the total probability of it being identified as blue, whether right or wrong, is .12 + .17 = .29. In other words, this witness could be expected to identify the cab as blue 29% of the time whether she was right or wrong.
The chances she was right are .12 out of .29, or 41%. Recommend that you cut and paste this, because Bayes theorem is cited fairly often, and is kind of hard to understand. It may be simple for Kahneman, but it is not for his average reader, I am sure.

Chapter 17 - regression to the mean. If I told you I got an SAT score of 750 you could assume that I was smart, or that I was lucky, or some combination. The average is only around 500. The chances are little bit of both, and if I take a test a second time I will get a lower score, not because I am any stupider but because your first observation of me wasn't exactly accurate. This is called regression to the mean. It is not about the things you are measuring, it is about the nature of measurement instruments. Don't mistake luck for talent.

Chapter 18 - taming intuitive predictions. The probability of the occurrence of an event which depends on a number of prior events is the cumulative probability of all those prior events. The probability of a smart grade school kid becoming a Rhodes scholar is a cumulative probability of passing a whole series of hurdles: studying hard, excelling in high school, avoiding drink and drugs, parental support and so on. The message in this chapter is that we tend to overestimate our ability to project the future.

Part three - overconfidence

Chapter 19 - the illusion of understanding. Kahneman introduces another potent concept, "what you see is all there is," thereinafter WYSIATI. We make judgments on the basis of the knowledge we have, and we are overconfident about the predictive value of that observation. To repeat their example, we see the tremendous success of Google. We discount the many perils which could have totally derailed the company along the way, including the venture capitalist who could have bought it all for one million dollars but thought the price was too steep.

Chapter 20 - The illusion of validity. Kahneman once again anticipates a bit more statistical knowledge than his readers are likely to have. The validity of a measure is the degree to which an instrument measures what it purports to measure. You could ask a question such as whether the SAT is a valid measure of intelligence. The answer is, not really, because performance on the SAT depends quite a bit on prior education and previous exposure to standardized tests. You could ask whether the SAT is a valid predictor of performance in college. The answer there is that it is not very good, but nonetheless it is the best available predictor. It is valid enough because there is nothing better. To get back to the point, we are inclined to assume measurements are more valid than they are, in other words, to overestimate our ability to predict based on measurements.

Chapter 21 - intuitions versus formulas. The key anecdote here is about a formula for predicting the quality of a French wine vintage. The rule of thumb formula beat the best French wine experts. Likewise, mathematical algorithms for predicting college success are as least as successful, and much cheaper, than long interviews with placement specialists.

Chapter 22 - expert intuition, when can we trust it? The short answer to this is, in situations in which prior experience is quite germane to new situations and there is some degree of predictability, and also an environment which provides feedback so that the experts can validate their predictions. He would trust the expert intuition of a firefighter; there is some similarity among fires, and the firemen learns quickly about his mistakes. He would not trust the intuition of a psychiatrist, whose mistakes may not show up for years.

Chapter 23 - the outside view. The key notion here is that people within an institution, project, or any endeavor tend to let their inside knowledge blind them to things an outsider might see. We can be sure that most insiders in Enron foresaw nothing but success. An outsider, having seen more cases of off-balance-sheet accounting and the woes it can cause, would have had a different prediction.

Chapter 24 - the engine of capitalism. This is a tour of decision-making within the capitalist citadel. It should destroy the notion that there are CEOs who are vastly above average, and also the efficient markets theory. Nope. The guys in charge often don't understand, and more important, they are blind to their own lack of knowledge.

Part four - choices

This is a series of chapters about how people make decisions involving money and risk. In most of the examples presented there is a financially optimal alternative. Many people will not find that alternative because of the way the problem is cast and because of the exogenous factors. Those factors include:

Marginal utility. Another thousand dollars is much less important to a millionaire than a wage slave.

Chapter 26 - Prospect theory: The bias against loss. Losing $1000 causes pain out of proportion to the pleasure of winning $1000.

Chapter 27 - The endowment effect. I will not pay as much to acquire something as I would demand if I already owned it and were selling.

Chapter 28 - Bad Events. We will take unreasonable risk when all the alternatives are bad. Pouring good money after bad, the sunk cost effect, is an example.

Chapter 29 - The fourfold pattern. High risk, low risk, win, lose. Human nature is to make choices which are not mathematically optimal: buying lottery tickets and buying unnecessary insurance.

Chapter 30 - rare events. Our minds are not structured to assess the likelihood of rare events. We overestimate the visible ones, such as tsunamis and terrorist attacks, and ignore the ones of which we are unaware.

Chapter 31 - Risk policies. This is about systematizing our acceptance of risk and making policies. As a policy, should we buy insurance or not, recognizing that there are instances in which we may override the policy. As a policy, should we accept the supposedly lower risk of buying mutual funds, even given the management fees?

Chapter 32 - keeping score. This is about letting the past influence present decisions. The classic example is people who refuse to sell for a loss, whether shares of stock or a house.

Chapter 33 - reversals. We can let a little negative impact a large positive. One cockroach in a crate of strawberries.

Chapter 34 - Frames and reality. How we state it. 90% survival is more attractive than 10% mortality.

Part V. Two selves: Experience and memory

Our memory may be at odds with our experience at the time. Mountain climbing or marathon running are sheer torture at the time, but the memories are exquisite. We remember episodes such as childbirth by the extreme of pain, not the duration.

Lift decision: do we live life for the present experience, or the anticipated memories? Are we hedonists, or Japanese/German tourists photographing everything to better enjoy the memories?
5

Jan 13, 2012

In the last few years two books took me FOREVER to get through. The first was Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" and the second is Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow." What caused this? What do they have in common? Both books explain, in minute detail, simple concepts with immensely far-reaching implications, and both have been... after the slog... the most intellectually rewarding reading of my adult life.

Where to begin... I have a number of theories running around in my head, and In the last few years two books took me FOREVER to get through. The first was Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" and the second is Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow." What caused this? What do they have in common? Both books explain, in minute detail, simple concepts with immensely far-reaching implications, and both have been... after the slog... the most intellectually rewarding reading of my adult life.

Where to begin... I have a number of theories running around in my head, and occasionally I try to corral them on paper. I organize, sequence and interconnect them in a way that will prevent my reader from meaningfully widening their eyes, in an aside, while winding their finger around one ear... ("Cuckoo!") Good writing about complex topics is very, very difficult, and Kahneman has corraled 30+ years of science, his career and all he has learned into a perfectly arranged sequence that leads the reader into a wilderness... provisioning you in each chapter with the tools you'll need for the next part of the journey.

The second most striking effect on me is the number of times I said, "Yes... YES!!! this is what I've been saying!" In my case it has usually been some sort of "intuitive"(excuse me, Mr. Kahneman... I mean "System 1") recognition of a pattern in my observations about the way we think. In Kahneman's case those intuitions have been converted into theoretical propositions, each meticulously researched in well designed experiments. Clearly, this is at least one difference between me and a Nobel Prize winning researcher.

So why does this stuff matter? In the context of broader discussions of free will, intention, choice and control over the directions our lives take, this book can provide powerful insights that might currently be obscured by these "cognitive illusions" and the inherent limitations of "System 1/System 2" thinking.

Perhaps we're not as "free" in our decisions as we might like to think, if "priming" has such a stunningly reproducible effect. Perhaps we're not so determined, if activities that initially require "System 2" attention, can be turned into second-nature, "technical-expertise intuitions." I.e. learning and training MATTERS in our ability to detect and respond to events that... if untrained... might take advantage of our brain's inherent "blind spots" or weaknesses.

Perhaps childhood religious indoctrination is a very adept recognition of these mental tendencies/flaws, so profoundly (if intuitively/naively) expressed by Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, "Give me the boy until 7, I will give you the man." (paraphrased; forgive me)

Kahneman's discoveries and documentation of mental capacity and biases could form the basis of a "Mental Martial Arts" program: an alternative form of indoctrination, in which students are trained to understand their brains' weaknesses, and learn to take stances or engage in practices that eliminate or reduce the errors to which these weaknesses can lead.

This book will rearrange the way you think... about how you think. ...more
1

Jan 19, 2012

An unrelentingly tedious book that can be summed up as follows. We are irrationally prone to jump to conclusions based on rule-of-thumb shortcuts to actual reasoning, and in reliance on bad evidence, even though we have the capacity to think our way to better conclusions. But we're lazy, so we don't. We don't understand statistics, and if we did, we'd be more cautious in our judgments, and less prone to think highly of our own skill at judging probabilities and outcomes. Life not only is An unrelentingly tedious book that can be summed up as follows. We are irrationally prone to jump to conclusions based on rule-of-thumb shortcuts to actual reasoning, and in reliance on bad evidence, even though we have the capacity to think our way to better conclusions. But we're lazy, so we don't. We don't understand statistics, and if we did, we'd be more cautious in our judgments, and less prone to think highly of our own skill at judging probabilities and outcomes. Life not only is uncertain, we cannot understand it systemically, and luck has just as much to do with what happens to us -- maybe even more -- than we care to admit. When in doubt, rely on an algorithm, because it's more accurate than your best guess or some expert's opinion. Above all, determine the baseline before you come to any decisions.

If you like endless -- and I mean endless -- algebraic word problems and circuitous anecdotes about everything from the author's dead friend Amos to his stint with the Israeli Air Defense Force, if you like slow-paced, rambling explanations that rarely summarize a conclusion, if your idea of a hot date is to talk Bayesian theory with a clinical psychologist or an economist, then this book is for you, who are likely a highly specialized academically-inclined person. Perhaps you are even a blast at parties, I don't know.

But if you're like me and you prefer authors to cut to the chase, make their point, and then leave you with a whopping big appendix if you're interested in the regression analysis of how many freshmen would watch a guy choke to death because they think someone else will come to the rescue, then this book is not for you.

If you want to take the Reader's Digest pass through the book, then Chapter 1 and Section 3 are probably the most accessible and can be read in less than an hour, and still leave you with a fair understanding of the author's thesis. ...more
5

Apr 19, 2012

This is a fascinating book. Reading this book means not having to read so many others. For example, you could avoid having to read, Sway, Blink, Nudge and probably a dozen or so other books on Behavioural Economics. And the best part of it is that this is the guy (or, at least one half of the two guys) who came up with these ideas in the first place.

I was thinking that perhaps the best way to explain those other books would be to compare them to Monty Python. I want you to imagine something - This is a fascinating book. Reading this book means not having to read so many others. For example, you could avoid having to read, Sway, Blink, Nudge and probably a dozen or so other books on Behavioural Economics. And the best part of it is that this is the guy (or, at least one half of the two guys) who came up with these ideas in the first place.

I was thinking that perhaps the best way to explain those other books would be to compare them to Monty Python. I want you to imagine something - say you had spent your entire life and never actually seen an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. That wouldn't mean you wouldn't know anything about Monty Python. It is impossible to have lived at any time since the late 60s and not have had some socially dysfunctional male reprise the entire Parrot sketch or Spanish Inquisition sketch at you at some stage in your life. I suspect, although there is no way to prove this now, obviously, that Osama bin Laden could do the Silly Walk like a natural. Well, if you had never seen an episode of Monty Python and your entire experience of their work was via the interpretation of men of a certain age down the pub - then finally getting to see an episode of the original would be much the same effect as reading this book. Hundreds of people have already told all this guy's best stories in their own books - but all the same it is a pleasure to hear them again by the guy that first said, 'this parrot is dead' or rather, 'framing effects make fools of us all'.

You need to read this book - but what is particularly good about it is that you come away from it knowing we really are remarkably easy to fool. It's because we think we know stuff that this comes as a constant surprise to us. Years ago I was talking to a guy who liked to bet. Everyone needs a hobby and that was his. Anyway, he told me he was playing two-up - an Australian betting game - and he realised something like tails hadn't come up frequently enough and so he started betting on tails and sure enough he made money. I told him that coins don't remember the last throw and so the odds of getting a tail was still 50%, as it had previously been. But I had no credibility - I'd already told him I never bet - so, how would I possibly know anything if I wasn't even brave enough to put my own money on the outcome? And didn't I understand the point of this story was he had already WON?

Still, when faced with a series of coin flips that run - H, H, H, H, H, T, H, H, H - it does feel like tails are 'due'. This is the sort of mistake we are all too prone to make. The thing to remember is that while there is a law of large numbers - toss a coin often enough and in the very long run there will be as many heads turn up as tails - that isn't the case in the short run - where just about anything is possible.

We (that is, we humans) are remarkably bad at mental statistics. And what makes it worse is that we are predictably bad at statistics. And this brings me to Bourdieu and him saying that Sociology is kind of martial art. He means that Sociology allows you to defend yourself from those who would manipulate you. Well, this book is the Bruce Lee book of advanced self-defence. Learning just how we fool ourselves might not make you feel terribly great about what it means to be human - but at least you will know why you hav stuffed up next time you do stuff up. I'm not sure it will stop you stuffing up - but that would be asking for an awful lot from one book.

If you want the short version of this book, he has provided the two papers that probably got him the Nobel Prize - and they are remarkably clear, easy to understand and comprehensive. But look, read this book - it will do you good.
...more
3

October 3, 2017

Repetitive
First, for reasons explained below I would not buy this as an audio book.

I have mixed feelings about this book for various reasons. The first 200 pages (Part 1 and 2) are heavily focused on the author trying to convince the reader that it is better to think statistically rather than instinctively / intuitively. After stating countless studies to support his premise, the author (very briefly) in Chapter 21 admits that “formulas based on statistics or on common sense” are both good forms to develop valued algorithms – Doesn’t common sense fit into instinct or intuition? Later in the same chapter the author concedes that intuition adds value but only to the extent that the individual bases it off sufficient research. To me, the way most of the book was written, especially in Parts 1 and 2, was a little over the top. The chapters are short and each one cites at least one study that the author or someone else performed. It becomes example after example after example and redundant. The beginning chapters seem as if the author put a group of journal articles together to develop part of the book. Don’t get me wrong, many of the studies are really interesting and I find them very helpful, I just believe that it became a little redundant. However, there is some evidence that also says that many of the studies referenced in this book were not able to be reproduced, adding more speculation on the evidence supporting the author’s premise.

Furthermore, the book is very interactive with the reader and some parts are a little condescending. For example, in the Introduction, the author poses a question to the reader asking whether or not a personality description means the person in question is a farmer or a librarian. Rather than assuming that the multitude of readers may come up with different responses, the author states “Did it occur to you that there are more than 20 male farmers.” While I understand where the author was going with the question, the author presumed that the readers would only answer one way and this recurs throughout the book. Another example in Chapter 16 assumed that the reader came up with the wrong answer and even stated that the most common answer to this question is wrong, however, the author does not explain how to come up with the correct answer.

Since this book is very interactive, I wouldn’t purchase the audio book. I do have both the hard copy and the audio book and further noticed that there were a few mistakes between the hard copy and the audio. Sometimes the mistake was quite minimal such as words were flip-flopped but at the end of Chapter 17 the author asks a question which requires some thought and work by the reader. The total in the audiobook was completely off. Instead of stating the total at 81 million (as in the hard copy) the audio book read it as 61 million and the Total for another part of the question in the same example was 67.1 million in the audio book instead of 89.1 million as the hard copy stated.

All in all, a good part of the book is intriguing. The author clearly has conducted extensive research throughout his career and was able to present much of it in this book in a form that would be comprehensible to non-econ and non-psychology persons.
3

April 1, 2017

Interesting but do not buy Kindle version
Content is interesting, but as other reviewers point out, do not buy the Kindle version, because links often don't work, and many images and footnotes seem to be lost.
3

Jan 02, 2012

I kind of want to cut this book in half, praise the first part, and stick the second part in some corner to gather dust. Not that the second part is bad, mind you; the entire book is well-written and obviously the product of someone who knows their field. There’s just a lot of it. Thinking, Fast and Slow is kind of like a guest who shows up to your party and then dazzles everyone with an impromptu, 15-minute oration on the geopolitical situation in South Ossetia; and, everyone applauds and turns I kind of want to cut this book in half, praise the first part, and stick the second part in some corner to gather dust. Not that the second part is bad, mind you; the entire book is well-written and obviously the product of someone who knows their field. There’s just a lot of it. Thinking, Fast and Slow is kind of like a guest who shows up to your party and then dazzles everyone with an impromptu, 15-minute oration on the geopolitical situation in South Ossetia; and, everyone applauds and turns to go back to their own conversations, only for the guest to launch into another story about the time they parachuted into the Balkans to break up a nascent civil war, a story which is followed quickly by a similar tale of a visit to Southeast Asia…. Well, I think you catch my drift. Daniel Kahneman spins an interesting tale of human psychology and the way our brains interpret and act on data. But the book overstays its welcome by a few hundred pages.

Kahneman’s thesis breaks our decision-making systems into two pieces, System 1 and System 2, which are the respective “fast” and “slow” of the title. System 1 provides intuitive judgements based on stimulus we might not even be conscious of receiving; it’s the snap signals that we might not even know we are acting upon. System 2 is the more contemplative, cognitively taxing counterpart that we engage for serious mental exertion. Though often oppositional in the types of decisions they produce, Kahneman is keen to emphasize that it’s not about System 1 versus System 2. Instead, he’s out to educate us about how the interplay between these systems causes us to make decisions that aren’t always rational or sensible given the statistics and evidence at hand.

Kahneman takes us through an exhaustive tour of biases and fallacies people are prone to making. He talks about the halo effect, affection bias, confirmation bias, and even regression to the mean. As a mathematician, I liked his angle on probability and statistics; as a logician, I appreciated his brief segues into the logical aspects of our contradictory decision-making processes. Lest I give the impression Kahneman gets too technical, however, I should emphasize that, despite its length, Thinking, Fast and Slow remains aggressively accessible. There are a few points where, if you don’t have a basic grasp of probability (and if Kahneman demonstrates anything, it’s that most people don’t), then you might feel talked over (or maybe it’s those less-than-infrequent, casual mentions of “and later I won a Nobel Prize”). But this book isn’t so much about science as it is about people.

There are two other things I really appreciated about this book, both of which are related to psychology. I’m a fairly easygoing person, and I don’t always like to make waves, but sometimes I like to make some trouble and argue with some of my friends about whether psychology is a science. The problem for psychology is that it’s actually a rather broad term for a series of overlapping fields of investigation into human behaviour. On one end of this continuum, you have Freud and Jung and the various psychoanalysts who, let’s face it, are one step up from astrologers and palm-readers. On the other end, you have the cutting-edge cognitive psychology informed by the neuroscience of MRIs, split-brain studies, and rat research. So claiming that psychology is or isn’t a science is a little simplistic, and I’m willing to grant that there are areas within psychology that are science. For what it’s worth, Kahneman went a long way to reinforcing this: it’s clear he and his collaborators have done decades of extensive research. (Now, yes, it’s social science, but I won’t get into that particular snobbery today.)

The other thing I liked about Thinking, Fast and Slow is its failure to mention evolutionary psychology. Once in a while, Kahneman alludes to System 1’s behaviour being the result of evolutionary adaptation—and that’s fine, because it is true, almost tautologically so. But he never quite delves into speculation about why such behaviour evolved, and I appreciate this. There’s a difference between identifying something as an adaptation and determining why it’s an adaptation, and I’m not a fan of evolutionary psychologists’ attempts to reduce everything to the trauma of trading trees for bipedalism … I’m willing to admit I have an ape brain, but culture must count for something, hmm?

I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that this book reaffirms my supercilious disregard for economics. According to Kahneman, stock brokers and investors have no idea what they are doing—and some of them know this, but most of them don’t. Economists are, for the most part, highly-trained, but they seem bent upon sustaining this theoretical fantasy land in which humans are rational creatures. Aristotle aside, the data seem to say it isn’t so. I occasionally try my hand at reading books about the economy, just so I can say I did, but they usually end up going over my head. I’m a mathematician and I don’t get numbers—but at least I’m not the only one.

So Thinking, Fast and Slow is genuinely interesting. I learned a lot from it. I would rate it higher, but I was starting to flag as I approached the finish line. Truth be told, I skipped the two articles Kahneman includes at the end that were the original publications about the theories he explains in the book. I’m sure they are fascinating for someone with more stamina, but at that point I just wanted to be done. That’s never good: one of the responsibilities of a non-fiction author is to know how to pace a book and keep its length appropriate. Too short and the book is unsatisfying—too long, and maybe it’s more so. And I think this flaw is entirely avoidable; it’s a result of Kahneman’s tendency to reiterate, to circle back around to the same discussions over and over again. He spends an entire chapter on prospect theory, then a few chapters later he’s telling us about its genesis all over again, just from a slightly different angle. Like that party guest, Kahneman is full of interesting stories, but after telling one after another for such a long period of time, it starts sounding like white noise. And he ate all those little cocktail snacks too.

I inevitably ended up comparing Thinking, Fast and Slow to How We Decide , a much slimmer volume along much the same lines as this one. Whereas Lehrer’s focus is on the neurology behind decision-making, Kahneman is more interested in the psychology. Both books boil down to: we suck at automatic decision-making when statistics are involved; therefore, we behave less rationally than we believe we do. Lehrer explains why things go wrong, and Kahneman categorizes all the different way things go wrong. In many ways the books are complementary, and if this is an area of interest for you, I’ll recommend them both. For the casual reader, however, Thinking, Fast and Slow is a rather dense meal. By all means, give it a try, but take it slow.

...more
4

Nov 30, 2012

If your objective, like it is when one finishes reading a self-help book, is to implement what Mr. Kahneman has to say in real life and benefit from it, I should warn you, you will be sorely disappointed. Believe it or not, in my opinion, I believe Mr. Kahneman is telling you exactly that in this book - that whether you like it or not, your entire life is guided or may I say decided by two fundamental ideas and that there is very little you can do to change it, period.

Mr. Kahneman is probably If your objective, like it is when one finishes reading a self-help book, is to implement what Mr. Kahneman has to say in real life and benefit from it, I should warn you, you will be sorely disappointed. Believe it or not, in my opinion, I believe Mr. Kahneman is telling you exactly that in this book - that whether you like it or not, your entire life is guided or may I say decided by two fundamental ideas and that there is very little you can do to change it, period.

Mr. Kahneman is probably the villain in every modern day spiritual guru's life, he argues very effectively that contrary to what these gurus may say the external world/ your environment/ surroundings/ or even society for that matter has a large say in your personal deliberate actions. You don't have a choice.

So, having said that, shelving this book in psychology section would be gross injustice. In my view this is such a good commentary of human nature. The two are different, very much so.

Read it, totally worth it in my opinion. Can get a little too drab but hang in there, this book is an eye opener. ...more
5

Aug 15, 2012

Hands down, one of the best books in its genre.

The book is a lengthy, self-conscious and a challenging read but highly recommended if you're interested in why human beings behave the way they behave. It's given me so much 'oh snap, so that's why we're so dumb' moments that at this point I don't even want to admit I'm a human to any space-time traveling race that comes in collision of 21st century Earth.

Citing behavioral research studies, he's convinced me that human confidence is a measure of Hands down, one of the best books in its genre.

The book is a lengthy, self-conscious and a challenging read but highly recommended if you're interested in why human beings behave the way they behave. It's given me so much 'oh snap, so that's why we're so dumb' moments that at this point I don't even want to admit I'm a human to any space-time traveling race that comes in collision of 21st century Earth.

Citing behavioral research studies, he's convinced me that human confidence is a measure of whether a person has built up a coherent story not that the person truly knows what she's doing. He's convinced me that the feeling of 'ease' is just cognitive familiarity. He's convinced me why first impressions matter more than we think due to the Halo effect. He's convinced me that the human mind doesn't understand non-events. We think we understand the past, but we really don't. We create coherency by attributing causality to events, but not to non-events. In other words we underestimate the role of luck or the role of unknown variables in a given situation. He has given me reason to believe that in low validity environments, it's better to use formula's than to listen to expert human judgment. For example, the stability of a marriage can be better predicted by a simple equation like [stability = frequency of love making - frequency of arguing] than an expert opinion.

But one of the most interesting hypothesis he builds up is the existence of two systems in the mind. System 1 is prone to cognitive biases described above, but it's also where morality comes from. Not to mention intuitive judgment and hueristic answers to life's everyday questions. Would you believe it? Morality is more of an intuitive thing than a logical and reasonable framework! And the funny thing is without system 1, we'd won't survive a day in the life. Not to mention we wouldn't act human. System 2 on the other hand is more introspective, rational and is capable of being aware of the cognitive biases created by System 1. If my understanding is correct then, we can replicate system 2 by a machine or artificial intelligence. But that machine will not have the same extent of morality that we have.... food for thought!

In later chapters of the book, he describes another variation of duality in the human mind. An Experiencing Self and a Remembering Self. With countless examples (both experimental and anecdotal) he vividly paints a picture of how humans have this notion of "I am my remembering self, and strangely my experiencing self is a stranger to me." We're actually okay with letting our Experiencing Self suffer for the good of the Remembering Self!! This ties in to the cognitive bias of "focusing Illusion" (Focalism) and how we tend to overestimate a certain aspect of life.

To put the icing on the cake he finalizes the book by analyzing how we appreciate, value and judge the quality of our lives with all these biases combined. And it's amazing how irrational we are in doing so. Not only have I realized from this book that I should stop worrying about societal standards (because they are mostly based on irrational biases) but that I should spend a significant amount of my time and effort to into creating a value structure ideally suited for myself. Now, only if I had bit more memory and cpu speed on System 2... ...more
5

January 15, 2017

Stunning, insightful, and timely
As others have noted, this book is dense in places, but is tremendously important for decision making from the individual up through public policy. Even if you don't have the patience for all the chapters don't neglect the intro and conclusion. The TL;DR doesn't suffice but. 1) human beings are not pure rational agents, but rather complex interplay of automatic and thoughtful reasoning both of which can be right or wrong 2) maximizing happiness requires recognition of when we are in a cognitive minefield so that we can marshal the appropriate evidence and response 3) maximizing happiness is not even straightforward; it is the complex interplay between experienced and remembered happiness. This book is in my top 10 most influential of my life; highly recommended especially in tandem with Haidt's "Righteous Mind"; these two highly complementary books form a multidimensional mirror for the human condition. Only by seeing ourselves as we *are* can we go about the business of governing ourselves and our world.
3

Oct 31, 2012

Thinking, Fast and Slow is just okay. It's being marketed as a book on psychology (and economic psychology, in particular) for the layperson. I'm not sure if other laypeople agree, but this wasn't really for me. And it's not that the prose is too technical (okay, sometimes it is) but rather that Kahneman is stuck somewhere between academic technicalities and clear expressive prose.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You Thinking, Fast and Slow is just okay. It's being marketed as a book on psychology (and economic psychology, in particular) for the layperson. I'm not sure if other laypeople agree, but this wasn't really for me. And it's not that the prose is too technical (okay, sometimes it is) but rather that Kahneman is stuck somewhere between academic technicalities and clear expressive prose.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook ...more
3

January 30, 2019

If you just read the 12-page introduction, you'll get it
A brilliant (indeed, Nobel Prize-winning) concept made unbearably tedious by endless case studies. Kahneman going on for over 400 pages about his two systems reminded me strongly of Bernard Shaw's comment on Darwin:

"If very few of us have read The Origin of the Species from end to end, it is not because it overtaxes our mind, but because we take in the whole case and are prepared to accept it long before we have come to the end of the innumerable instances and illustrations of which the book mainly consists. Darwin becomes tedious in the manner of a man who insists on continuing to prove his innocence after he has been acquitted. You assure him that there is not a stain on his character, and beg him to leave the court; but he will not be content with enough evidence to acquit him: he will have you listen to all the evidence that exists in the world."
Preface to Back to Methuselah, p. xlviii
5

Dec 11, 2011

Whew! Wrestled this one down to the ground. It's got so much in it; I've got all I can for now. I'm leaving it out in the living room for now, though--for refreshers.

The author's aim is to prove to us that we are not rational beings to the extent we think we are, that evolution has seen to that. And that being the case, the book outlines what we need to know so as not to mess up decisions like we have been doing--like we all do.

And he's made it accessible. He pulls you in. You will get your Whew! Wrestled this one down to the ground. It's got so much in it; I've got all I can for now. I'm leaving it out in the living room for now, though--for refreshers.

The author's aim is to prove to us that we are not rational beings to the extent we think we are, that evolution has seen to that. And that being the case, the book outlines what we need to know so as not to mess up decisions like we have been doing--like we all do.

And he's made it accessible. He pulls you in. You will get your share of "Aha!" moments.

You can read it at whatever level you want. You can skim over the more complicated parts and go for the pithy conclusions. Or if you are really into the science and scholarship, there are footnotes in the back--stealth footnotes without the little numbers on the book's pages, so as not to intimidate the general audience.

All based on science. It's true whether you like it or not. And it is applicable to your life. You can't go over it, you can't go under it, so go through it--with this book.

If we all used our brains just a little more, what couldn't we accomplish!

News for August 9, 2013: Daniel Kahneman is one of the sixteen Medal of Freedom recipients for this year -- http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/ar... .

February 11, 2019: Heard on NPR (Krista Tippett's On Being) Sunday a week ago -- a good review/overview https://onbeing.org/programs/daniel-k... ...more
0

Aug 16, 2012

This book had me laughing and smiling, more than many a book described in its blurb as side-splittingly funny or something similar because I recognised the cognitive disillusions described in this book as my own and in any case I am the kind of person who if they fall into a good mood wonders if it's due to the pint and the pie that was eaten earlier.

In my case the preacher wasn't talking to the choir, but I had been to the church before and enjoyed the services. It doesn't set out to be a new This book had me laughing and smiling, more than many a book described in its blurb as side-splittingly funny or something similar because I recognised the cognitive disillusions described in this book as my own and in any case I am the kind of person who if they fall into a good mood wonders if it's due to the pint and the pie that was eaten earlier.

In my case the preacher wasn't talking to the choir, but I had been to the church before and enjoyed the services. It doesn't set out to be a new book full of new discoveries. It's a comfortable round up of research, investigations and thought, polished off with a couple of Kahneman's early articles as appendices. If you've read The Halo Effect ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers(which puts some of these cogitative delusions in a business context, it has an excellent anecdote about the failure of a Lego product), or something along those lines you'll be familiar with some of the ideas here.

By now I'm quite comfortable accepting that I am not rational and that other people aren't either and that statistical thinking is alien to probably to almost everybody and Kahneman's book happily confirms my opinion. And few things make us as happy as having our own biases confirmed to us.

There are however a couple of problems. Firstly there are some people who apparently are wedded to the notion that people are entirely rational. They either will not read this book, read and reject it or indeed read it, accept it's findings but mentally note them as curious aberrations that don't affect their belief - this is discussed in the book.

More seriously society is organised on the tacit assumption that we are not only capable of being rational but will put the effort into doing so when required. Unfortunately studies demonstrating the effect of meals on Judges reviewing parole cases (like the state pawn broker in Down and out in Paris and London they are more lenient after lunch and harsher beforehand and once they get hungry again) or voter behaviour which turns out to be influenced by where the polling booth is located. This makes me wonder. My polling station used to be in the Adult Education Centre, now that's been closed down, if the polling centre was moved to the police station would my voting habits transform into those of a Fishin', Huntin' and Floggin' Tory who froths at the mouth hearing the words 'illegal immigrants'? Maybe I need a snack.

Much in the book is useful, 90% fat free does sound better than 10% fat, there's a lot to be learnt here in how to describe or state a problem to push people towards certain responses by framing or anchoring the information you give. Of course this happens to us all the time as it is.

One of my favourite of Kahneman's examples comes from when he was working with Israeli flight instructors. They were convinced that shouting and swearing at trainee pilots was the best method of improving their performance - experience proved it - when a pilot under performed they swore at him and on the next attempt the trainee would do better. Plainly shouting works. Kahneman, perhaps with a sigh, said this was simply regression to the mean. After poor performance what ever they did would be followed by improved performance, swearing and shouting have no magic power. To demonstrate he had the instructors throw balls of paper over their shoulder's into a waste paper bin and tracked the results on a handy black board showing that performance varied up and down irrespective of swearing. Still I wonder if returning to work the instructors developed an enlightened instruction method or if they rapidly regressed to the mean and shouted and swore again.

I used to think that politicians answered a different question to the one given by the interviewer in an attempt to be evasive. Post Kahneman I wonder if this is just the natural tendency of the brain to substitute an easier question for a harder one. Who knows. ...more
5

Dec 21, 2014

It is very difficult to judge, review or analyze a book that basically challenges the very idea of human “Rationalism”. Are humans perfectly rational? This dude, Daniel Kahneman, got a Nobel Prize in Economics for saying they are not. An ordinary person might have been treated with glare or a stinging slap if he said that to someone’s face. We simply don’t like being told that we are not very rational and certainly not as intelligent as we think we are. Hidden in the depths of our consciousness, It is very difficult to judge, review or analyze a book that basically challenges the very idea of human “Rationalism”. Are humans perfectly rational? This dude, Daniel Kahneman, got a Nobel Prize in Economics for saying they are not. An ordinary person might have been treated with glare or a stinging slap if he said that to someone’s face. We simply don’t like being told that we are not very rational and certainly not as intelligent as we think we are. Hidden in the depths of our consciousness, are some ‘actors’ that keep tempering with our ‘rationality’. And we almost consciously allow this to happen.
All in all, this book is a tour de force of Behavioral Psychology. Explaining how our mind comes to conclusions and makes decisions, Kahneman explains that our intuition and decision making part of brain has two personalities. These personalities, he says, are not two different or distinct systems but to understand them better, we will have to assign personalities not only to understand them better but also to be able to relate to them on a personal level.
The two systems are called system 1 and system 2, for the sake of convenience. System 1 is vigilant, impulsive, judgmental, easily manipulated, highly emotional.
System 2, on the other hand is the total opposite of system 1, it is very intelligent, indolent, mostly drowsing off in the back of our head, difficult to convince and extremely stubborn, and it only comes to action when there is some sort of ‘emergency’. Both these systems are susceptible to a number of biases, system 1 more than system 2.
I thought Kahneman would build up this narrative systematically but he goes on to give us a tour of his years of research, experiments and surveys exploring every nook of our conscious human mind. He focuses on a diverse set of heuristics and biases that influence our judgments in everyday life. With some brilliant experiments and survey reports, he convincingly elaborates the effects that these biases have on our decisions. Never forgetting to highlight the fallacies of our consciousness, he touches on a number of other important breakthroughs in the world of psychology.


This is a very simple case of visual illusion where we see two lines of same size appearing to be of varying lengths. Even after knowing that they are equal and the illusion is created by the fins attached to them, our system 1 still impulsively signals that one of them is longer then the other.
Through this simple illustration, he moves on to introduce Cognitive Illusions, which are more fascinating, and are drastically more effective.
Kahneman contends that it is extremely difficult to overcome heuristic biases. Although, through methods like using statistical formulas and deliberate scrutiny we can ‘rationalize’ our decisions to some extent. Still, we are inherently prone to fall for dazzling rhetoric and dashing figures, we believe in myths and incidents that are as improbable as they are ludicrous, because this is the way we see things. But this is not undesirable altogether, some of the intuitive abilities are an evolutionary blessing that help us understand emotions and make correct decision in split seconds. Neither does the author deems it expedient to overcome these biases, but only to recognize them and put our system 2 to work before making crucial judgments.
I am afraid that this review is getting a bit too long, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone reads long reviews.(Except some of my nerdy goodread friends who then leave an equally baffling Proustian comment, which of course, takes quite a while to be properly understood.) So I will mention a summary of some critical biases, ideas and psychological phenomenon that I found interesting.

---------------------------------------------------------------

I have attempted to summarize some heuristics, biases and psychological principle that I thought would make a fascinating introduction to tempt a novice like me to further explore the subject.
They are just the tip of iceberg and not by any means exhaustive and just comprise a small part of what this book is all about.

Associative machine: System 1 works in surprising ways, read this
BANANA VOMIT
Now, a lot happened in last few seconds when you read these two words. You wore an expression of disgust and a very bad image came to your mind, your body too reacted in disgust and for short time you might not want to eat bananas. All of this was automatic and beyond your control. It was “The Associative Machine” of system 1. We associate seemingly some unrelated images and with some imagination, form an image. Our brain loves patterns and some times it sees things that aren’t even there.
A very interesting clip in which Simon Singh shows associative machine at work : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bG7E...

Priming: Exposure to a word causes immediate changes in the ease with which many related words can be evoked. If you have recently heard the word EAT, you are temporarily more likely to complete the word fragment SO_P as SOUP than as SOAP. The opposite would happen if you had just seen WASH.
Similarly, exposure to an idea or event can also have similar temporary effect on our behavior. (“Florida Effect”)

Cognitive Ease: We all love it when we don’t have to work too hard because system 2 doesn’t like being bothered. So we admire and rather look for cognitive ease. Things that are less complex have a positive effect on our behavior. Psychologists use the term “Mind at ease puts a smile on the face”. Similarly, smiling and laughing can also ease our mind (system 1) and make us feel confident and in control. Anything that is easy to understand (read or see) is likely to have a more positive effect on us as compared to anything that we have a hard time understanding or visualizing.

Exposure Effect: We are more likely to choose the thing we are more familiar with. The principle that “Familiarity breeds liking” suggests that we are more inclined towards anything that is familiar and has been exposed to us before in past. The more the exposure is, the more we will be inclined towards it.
This principle is excellently illustrated in Will Smith’s “Focus” (2015).
a similar trick is used to con a billionaire.

Normality illusion: Things that recur with greater frequency are considered normal, no matter how horrendous they are. Two people killed in a terrorist attack in a western country are more likely to be mourned then a hundreds of children killed in Gaza by a missile strike. Simply due to the fact that children in Gaze get bombed all the time, while a terrorist attack that kills innocents is sort of rarity in Europe and America. (The same concept is present in Orwell’s Animal Farm in which pigs start to dominate other animals and it becomes the norm after a while.)

Substitution: If a satisfactory answer to a hard question is not found quickly, System 1 will find a related question that is easier and will answer it. For instance when asked How happy are you with your life these days? Its more likely that we don’t use a broad frame to answer the question and substitute it with a simpler question “What is my mood right now?”. System 1 can readily answer the substitute question but to answer the real question, System 2 would have to be excited, which as we know System 2 doesn’t like. In everyday life, we use this to avoid making decisions and expressions based on factual background and therefore make an impulsive and sometimes irrational comment to a difficult question.



What you see is there is: We take pride in our intuitive abilities which leads us to believe that we know the whole truth, no matter how fallible our sources are, and not withstanding the fact that there is always another side of the picture. When we hear a story or an incident, we tend to accept it as a fact without considering any view dissenting or contradicting it. Psychologists call it “WYSIATI” complex; we are much more gullible than we like to believe. But it is again the mischief of System 1 that leads us to believe a narrative impulsively and without further inquisition as to its authenticity. It is also another example of our intuitive tendency to see things in a narrow frame.

Loss Aversion: Call it a gift of evolution or survival instinct, but we are naturally loss averse in most of our decisions. We are more likely to abandon a huge profit if there is some probability of an equally huge loss. We do want to have more, but not at the cost of putting our own at stake, we relish our possessions more than our desire to have more.

Overconfidence and Hindsight bias: A general limitation of our mind is its imperfect ability to reconstruct past states of knowledge, or beliefs that have changed. Once you adopt a new view of the world (or any part of it), you immediately lose much of your ability to recall what you used to believe before your mind changed. We see people everyday saying that what just happened was what they always thought would happen and they, in their overconfidence, start believing that they always knew in hindsight that such an event was probable. (see Halo Effect)

Prospect theory: This theory attempts to explain the way people choose between probabilistic alternatives that involve risk, where the probabilities of outcomes are known. Kahneman illustrates it through this graph

This theory is one of his most important in the field of behavioral economics. Owing to its complexity, I can not summarize it here.


P.S I highly recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in Behavioral Psychology. Don’t waste your time on self-help books when you can read the real stuff. ...more
5

March 22, 2018

It helps us become aware of cognitive biases in other people, not in ourselves.
This was a difficult but valuable book. However, some reviewers claim its value is in changing our mental habits. This is a mistake. The book is much too complex for that. Kahneman concludes the book stating that even he has not been able to do much to curb the instincts of intuition. The value of the book, he states, is to give people the vocabulary to spot biases and to criticize the decisions of others: “Ultimately, a richer language is essential to the skill of constructive criticism.” (pp. 417-8) I finished the book a few days ago and have found it useful in criticizing the writings of op-ed columnists. They are especially guilty of question substitution: substituting a question that is easy to answer for one that is almost impossible. For example, for the question what does the recent election of a certain politician mean for the Democrats, the pundit will answer the question of what is the politician’s personality and personal demeanor and then state that Democrats need to run candidates with this personality profile. Kahneman is not speaking to decision makers as much as he is to those who might offer constructive criticism to the deciders. He is not interested in individuals as much as he is in organizations. He wants to create communities that not only have better results but have a better decision making process. The best way to evaluate his work is to take some of his ideas and see if they work in whichever community you happen to find yourself. Do they improve your community's decision making process?
5

Aug 31, 2012

This is an excellent book about how we think, written by a Nobel-prize-winning economist. Kahneman explains how two "systems" in the mind make decisions. "System 1" is the fast, intuitive aspect of the mind. "System 2" is the slower, logical and reasoning part of the mind. We generally make decisions quickly with the System 1, often because System 2 is simply--lazy. It takes effort to think things out rationally, and our rational minds are not always up to the job.

This book is a long, This is an excellent book about how we think, written by a Nobel-prize-winning economist. Kahneman explains how two "systems" in the mind make decisions. "System 1" is the fast, intuitive aspect of the mind. "System 2" is the slower, logical and reasoning part of the mind. We generally make decisions quickly with the System 1, often because System 2 is simply--lazy. It takes effort to think things out rationally, and our rational minds are not always up to the job.

This book is a long, comprehensive explanation of why we make decisions the way we do. Both systems are necessary, but both are subject to fallacies. Kahneman explains many of these fallacies. Most people do not really understand probability, so we are not good at judging relative levels of risk. Our decisions are strongly colored by how we frame questions in our minds. Simply re-framing a question can easily cause people--even professionals like doctors--to reverse decisions. We need to understand these framing issues, to avoid bad decisions. Elements of causality and Bayesian probability are described in some detail.

One of the most interesting aspects of the ways we think, is the concept of availability. Often, when subjected to a difficult question, we answer immediately. But really, we do not answer the question at hand--we have made a subtle switch to a simpler question, without even realizing it. Kahneman describes this quick switch to an available answer, in quite a bit of detail. Another interesting aspect is what he calls "hedonic" theory. Our memories of pleasant and unpleasant experiences are very much colored by their peak intensities and their ends--but definitely not by their durations. In other words, a short, very unpleasant experience is remembered as being much worse than an very long duration, unpleasant experience.

Some of the explanations of our ways of thinking may seem basic and obvious if you have read other psychology books. But then you realize--Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky discovered these aspects of psychology, by conducting a wide variety of clever experiments. Very well written, and understandable to the non-specialist, I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in psychology. ...more
4

Sep 15, 2015

Reading "Thinking, Fast, and Slow", ....(book choice for this month's local book club),
was not exactly bedtime reading for me.

I had already pre- judged it before I started reading... ( certain I would discover I'm a FAST
INTUITIVE - type thinker ... ( quick, often influenced by emotion). Once in awhile I use
basic common sense - logic .... but even, it is usually with 'righteous emotions'. Just
being honest!

I understand this is an intellectual -giant- of - a -book about "How we think"...
Reading "Thinking, Fast, and Slow", ....(book choice for this month's local book club),
was not exactly bedtime reading for me.

I had already pre- judged it before I started reading... ( certain I would discover I'm a FAST
INTUITIVE - type thinker ... ( quick, often influenced by emotion). Once in awhile I use
basic common sense - logic .... but even, it is usually with 'righteous emotions'. Just
being honest!

I understand this is an intellectual -giant- of - a -book about "How we think"...
Thinking 'deeply' about how we think... but this book hasn't changed me - transformed me--
or enlighten me. Not so far.

It's too technical. I understand the author is brilliant --but I found myself skimming pages--
However, what I understood - I enjoyed.

Kahneman has a great talent at being a slow, rational, logical, and reflective thinker.
However, fast thanking, intuitive thinking, is more influential in what experience tells us he says---being contrary to the belief that we are very rational-decision making people.

A few things in the book...interesting information ... Yet I still 'believe it's incomplete ...
That their are other ways in speaking about the way our minds work - that is not found in this big book.

1) Two basic systems of thinking:
System 1 is the intuitive, quick, thinking
System 2 is the slowest rational logical and reflective thinking

.....20% of our Energy goes into our brain.
.....We tend to be lazy thinkers. ( lazy controller he calls it), and do not involve our slow thinking brain and less it is needed.
...... A running theme in the book is that although the brain does contain a statistical
algorithm, it is not accurate. The brain does not understand basic normal distribution.
...... Our brain often jumps to conclusions.
...... Our brain knows how to answer easy questions, like "what did you have for breakfast"?...
but it is more challenging to answer the question, "how do you feel about yourself today"?
......We have biases
...... Often stereotypes will override statistics. ( again providing we have influential, lazy judging brains)
....... He talks about predictions. For example, if a child gets great grades in the lower grades of school... We often tend to over estimate our ability to predict the future.
...... When it comes to intuition versus formulas ... Often the formula does win.
..... We also are incline to expect regularity much more in our lives and really exist.

You won't find any data in this book about "The Power of Now" thinking, or discussion about
"You are not your Mind", Chakras, or myths about healing ...
but it's a book about THE WAY WE THINK... (technical.. some of it I resonated with- but when it got too scientifically technical, he lost me).

I look forward to my book club discussion- 25 people will be attending this month- (many bright people)... I'm sure to gain value and more insights.



...more
4

Apr 29, 2012

Freeman “Dyson Sphere” Dyson wrote the New York Times review, which has me swooning right there. Dyson was a particularly apt pick because Kahneman helped design the Israeli military screening and training systems back when the country was young, and Dyson at 20 years old cranked statistics for the British Bombing Command in its youth. Dyson was part of a small group that figured out the bombers were wrong about what mattered to surviving night time raids over Germany; a thing only about a Freeman “Dyson Sphere” Dyson wrote the New York Times review, which has me swooning right there. Dyson was a particularly apt pick because Kahneman helped design the Israeli military screening and training systems back when the country was young, and Dyson at 20 years old cranked statistics for the British Bombing Command in its youth. Dyson was part of a small group that figured out the bombers were wrong about what mattered to surviving night time raids over Germany; a thing only about a quarter of the crews did over a tour. Dyson figured out the Royal Airforce's theories about who lived and died were wrong. But no data driven changes were made because “the illusion of validity does not disappear just because facts prove it to be false. Everyone at Bomber Command, from the commander in chief to the flying crews, continued to believe in the illusion. The crews continued to die, experienced and inexperienced alike, until Germany was overrun and the war finally ended.” http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archi...

Why did the British military resist the changes? Because it was deeply inconsistent the heroic story of the RAF they believed in. Suppose there are stories I’d die for too. But not the myth that Kahneman dethroned. Kahneman got the Nobel Prize for Economics for showing that the Rational Man of Economics model of human decision making was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human decision making. We are not evolved to be rational wealth maximizers, and we systematically value and fear some things that should not be valued so highly or feared so much if we really were the Homo Economicus the Austrian School seems to think we should be. Which is personally deeply satisfying, because I never bought it and deeply unsettling because of how many decisions are made based on that vision.

If that was all this book was, it’d just be another in a mass of books that have as their thesis “You’re wrong about that!” Which I appreciate knowing, but there’s a point where it’s a little eye rolling because they don’t offer any helpful suggestions on how not to be wrong, or why these patterns of wrongness exist and endure. But Kahneman has a theory. He theorizes that humans have two largely separate decision-making systems: System One (the fast) and System Two (the slow). System One let us survive monster attacks and have meaningful relationships with each other. System Two let us get to the moon.

Both systems have values built into them and any system of decision-making that edits them out is doomed to undercut itself. Some specifics that struck me:

Ideomotor Effect: (53) Concepts live in our heads in associative networks. Once triggered, they cascade concepts. Make someone walk slow, they think about old age. Make someone smile, and they’ll be happier. Seeing a picture of cash makes us more independent, more selfish, and less likely to pick up something someone else has dropped. Seeing a locker makes us more likely to vote for school bonds. Reminding people of their mortality makes them more receptive of authoritarian ideas.” (56) “Studies of priming effects have yielded discoveries that threaten our self-image as conscious and autonomous authors of our judgments and our choices.” (55).

Halo Effect (82) “If you like the president’s politics, you probably like his voice and appearance as well.” We find someone attractive and we conclude they’re competent. We find emotional coherence pleasing and lack of coherence frustrating. However, far fewer things are correlated than we believe.

What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI) (85). Our system one is pattern seeking. Our system 2 is lazy; happy to endorse system 1 beliefs without doing the hard math. “Jumping to conclusions on the basis of limited evidence is so important to an understanding of intuitive thinking, and comes up so often in this book, that I will use a cumbersome abbreviation for it: WYSIATI. . . System 1 is radically insensitive to both the quality and quantity of information that gives rise to impressions and intuitions.” (86). Absolutely essentially for not getting eaten by lurking monsters, and “explains why we can think fast, and how we are able to make sense of partial information in a complex world. Much of the time, the coherent story we put together is close enough to reality to support reasonable action.” Except when it doesn’t. Like in our comparative risk assessments. We panic about shark attacks and fail to fear riptides; freak out about novel and unusual risks and opportunities and undervalue the pervasive ones.

Answering an Easier Question (97). If one question is hard, we’ll substitute an easier one. It can be a good way to make decisions. Unless the easier question is not a good substitute. I have an uneasy awareness that I do this. Especially since it often REALLY ANNOYS me when people do it to me.

The Law of Small Numbers. (109) The counties with the lowest level of kidney cancer are rural, sparsely populated, and located in traditionally Republican states. Why? Good clean living? The counties with the highest level of kidney cancer are rural, sparsely populated, and located in traditionally Republican states. Why? Lack of access to health care? Wait, what? The System 1 mind immediately comes up with a story to explain the difference. But once the numbers are cranked, apparently, it’s just an artifact of the fact that a few cases in a small county skews the rate. But if you base your decision on either story, the outcomes will be bad.

Anchors (119). We seize on the first value offered, no matter how obviously absurd it is. If you want to push someone in a direction, get them to accept your anchor.

Regression to the Mean. (175) There will be random fluctuations in the quality of performance. A teacher who praises a randomly good performance may shape behavior, but likely will simply be disappointed as statistics asserts itself and a bad performance follows. A teacher who criticizes a bad performance may incentivize, but likely will simply have a false sense of causation when statistics asserts itself and a good performance happens. Kahneman describes it as “a significant fact of the human condition: the feedback to which life exposes us too is perverse. Because we tend to be nice to other people when they please us and nasty when they do not, we are statistically punished for being nice and rewarded for being nasty.” (176).

The Illusion of Understanding (204) The sense-making machinery of System 1 makes us see the world as more tidy, simple, predictable, and coherent than it really is. The illusion that one has understood the past feeds the further illusion that one can control the future. These illusions are comforting. They reduce the anxiety that we would experience if we allowed ourselves to fully acknowledge the uncertainties of existence. We all have a need for the reassuring message that actions have appropriate consequences, and that success will reward wisdom and courage.” But it doesn’t . (212). For example, we’re totally wrong about whether you can beat the stock market.
Formulas are often much more predictive than learned intuition. I’m going to have to wrestle with this one, but he alluded to a claim by Robyn Dawes that “marital stability is well predicted by a formula: frequency of lovemaking minus frequency of quarrels.” (226) Snicker.

Premortems Can Help. (264) before making a decision, assign someone to imagine it’s a year into the future and the plan was a disaster. Have them write a history of the disaster.

We value losses more than gains. (349) Which is fine except when that means we expose others to more risk because we did the math wrong.

The Focusing Illusion (402) “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.” We overvalue what’s in our mind at the moment, which is subject to priming.

He closes by stressing he does not mean to say that people are irrational. But, he says, “rational” in economic terms has a particular meaning that does not describe people. “For economists and decision theorists, [rationality] has an altogether different meaning. The only test of rationality is not whether a person’s beliefs and preferences are reasonable, but whether they are internally consistent. A rational person can believe in ghosts, so long as all her other beliefs are consistent with the existence of ghosts. . . . Rationality is logical coherence – reasonable or not. Econs are rational by this definition, but there is overwhelming evidence that Humans cannot be. . . .

“The definition of rationality as coherence is impossibly restrictive; it demands adherence to rules of logic that a finite mind is not able to implement. Reasonable people cannot be rational by that definition, but they should not be branded as irrational for that reason. Irrational is a strong word, which connotes impulsivity, emotionality, and a stubborn resistance to reasoned argument. I often cringe when my work with Amos [Tversky] is credited with demonstrating that human choices are irrational, when in fact our research only showed that Humans are not well described by the rational-agent model.” (411)

A good read. ...more
5

Jun 21, 2012

It's a fascinating study of the mind, how people make decisions, and how the decision-making process can be improved.
0

Jan 20, 2012

My issue with this book, which is one I've tossed aside after 60 pages, is not so much that it's poorly done or that it's hard to understand - in fact, the exact opposite is true.

The issue is that this book is simply more in depth about psychology and psychological processes than I truly have a short-term interest in. This is more the type of book you keep near your desk or bedside, read a 12 page chapter or so, and digest. This may be a book I need to own and do that with as opposed to tear My issue with this book, which is one I've tossed aside after 60 pages, is not so much that it's poorly done or that it's hard to understand - in fact, the exact opposite is true.

The issue is that this book is simply more in depth about psychology and psychological processes than I truly have a short-term interest in. This is more the type of book you keep near your desk or bedside, read a 12 page chapter or so, and digest. This may be a book I need to own and do that with as opposed to tear through it after borrowing it from the library and then hating myself as a slog through it. ...more
5

Jan 20, 2014

Excellent book that should be of interest to those interested in Julian Jaynes's ideas on consciousness. This book could probably have been titled Thinking Non-Consciously and Consciously.
5

Jul 07, 2018

Interesting book about how the mind works, errors in judgement and memory and what to do to not fall prey to our minds` shortcuts (literally).
Take home messages: Quick thinking and multitasking increases error rate. For the mind to comprehend something; it must be relative. Focusing on what we want is very important. What we assume as making a logical decision may just be misjudgment under influence.

Very entertaining book and teaches one a lot about oneself`s own mind. Interesting book about how the mind works, errors in judgement and memory and what to do to not fall prey to our minds` shortcuts (literally).
Take home messages: Quick thinking and multitasking increases error rate. For the mind to comprehend something; it must be relative. Focusing on what we want is very important. What we assume as making a logical decision may just be misjudgment under influence.

Very entertaining book and teaches one a lot about oneself`s own mind. ...more
4

Jul 24, 2015

Reading "Thinking, Fast, and Slow", ....(book choice for this month's local book club),
was not exactly bedtime reading for me.

I had already pre- judged it before I started reading... ( certain I would discover I'm a FAST
INTUITIVE - type thinker ... ( quick, often influenced by emotion). Once in awhile I use
basic common sense - logic --(not often)--
just being honest! I rather trust my gut!

I understand this is an intellectual -giant- of - a -book about "How we think".
"Thinking deeply about Reading "Thinking, Fast, and Slow", ....(book choice for this month's local book club),
was not exactly bedtime reading for me.

I had already pre- judged it before I started reading... ( certain I would discover I'm a FAST
INTUITIVE - type thinker ... ( quick, often influenced by emotion). Once in awhile I use
basic common sense - logic --(not often)--
just being honest! I rather trust my gut!

I understand this is an intellectual -giant- of - a -book about "How we think".
"Thinking deeply about how we think", hasn't changed me, transformed me,
or enlighten me. Not so far.

This book is pretty technical. I understand the author is brilliant --but I found myself skimming pages--
However, what I understood - I did enjoy.

Kahneman has a great talent at being a slow, rational, logical, and reflective thinker.
However, fast thinking, intuitive thinking, is more influential in what experience tells us he says---being contrary to the belief that we are very rational-decision making people.

I still believe this book is incomplete ...
I think their are other ways in speaking about the way our minds work - that is not found in this big book.

However, Our author says we have two ways of thinking: (OK?/!).....

1) Two basic systems of thinking:
System 1 is the intuitive, quick, thinking
System 2 is the slowest rational logical and reflective thinking

.....20% of our Energy goes into our brain.
.....We tend to be lazy thinkers. ( lazy controller he calls it), and do not involve our slow thinking brain and less it is needed.
...... A running theme in the book is that although the brain does contain a statistical
algorithm, it is not accurate. The brain does not understand basic normal distribution.
...... Our brain often jumps to conclusions.
...... Our brain knows how to answer easy questions, like "what did you have for breakfast"?...
but it is more challenging to answer the question, "how do you feel about yourself today"?
......We have biases
...... Often stereotypes will override statistics. ( again providing we have influential, lazy judging brains)
....... He talks about predictions. For example, if a child gets great grades in the lower grades of school... We often tend to over estimate our ability to predict the future.
...... When it comes to intuition versus formulas ... Often the formula does win.
..... We also are incline to expect regularity much more in our lives and really exist.

You won't find any data in this book about "The Power of Now" thinking, or discussion about
"You are not your Mind", Chakras, or myths about healing ...
but it's a book about THE WAY WE THINK... (technical.. some of it I resonated with- but when it got too scientifically technical, he lost me).

I look forward to my book club discussion- 25 people will be attending this month- (many bright people)... I'm sure to gain value and more insights.



...more
2

Mar 08, 2012

Mr. Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, explores the general subject of how and why we frequently make irrational decisions. We've all seen articles over the years on various aspects of this phenomenon, but I venture to say that never before have the various aspects and permutations been explored in this depth and specificity. Mr. Kahneman has spent much of his life researching the subject, and since the book includes both his research and that of others, it must stand as the definitive compendium Mr. Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, explores the general subject of how and why we frequently make irrational decisions. We've all seen articles over the years on various aspects of this phenomenon, but I venture to say that never before have the various aspects and permutations been explored in this depth and specificity. Mr. Kahneman has spent much of his life researching the subject, and since the book includes both his research and that of others, it must stand as the definitive compendium on the subject. His credentials are indisputable, and he tries gamely to bring the subject to life, but -- mea culpa -- I just couldn't stay interested in the myriad of data and specific examples. The book is good for someone really interested in the details, and it does contain real life examples, but after 400 pages it's hard to remember them. My takeaway: Our intuition is frequently wrong, and even our experience (or what we believe our experience to have been) may not be reliable as a decision guide. So, be careful! ...more

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