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Tversky and Kahneman are, without a doubt, two of the most influential psychologists, all categories. Their simple, yet careful and creative experiments revealed how our decision processes are biased in systematic ways. Their research was deservedly awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. In this book, Kahneman summarizes and puts into context his work in a way that only someone who did the research could. Though I was quite familiar with Kahneman's work before reading this book, I learned many new interesting details. Sometimes when reading a long book about something you are interested in, your interest can wane. This book did the opposite. After having read the book, I am even more fascinated by the research described and how it impacts our lives (and it does).
Throughout the book, Kahneman uses the terms "system one and system two". System one is essentially our intuition or gut feeling. It govern most of our decisions and, in general, does a good job, even though it is prone to some biases (which Kahneman and Tversky have been exploring in their careers). System two, on the other hand, is like the sidekick in a movie who thinks she is the star of the movie. Or to use another metaphor I heard from David Eagleman: system two is like the government of a country. It takes credit for all the things that happen in the country, even though the government itself don’t do that much.
In other words, system one sits comfortably in the driving seat for most of our lives. We rely on our gut feelings even when we really shouldn't. System one evaluates arguments and questions in a very lazy way. An argument that sounds good or is presented by a good looking person is probably correct. If you have heard the argument before (even if it was rebutted), it is also probably correct. If the argument is consistent with one memorable episode in your life, then that is a strong argument in its favor (never mind the ten events that contradicted the argument). How you feel also matters a great deal when making decisions using system one. If you feel cranky and hungry, there is just no way that an argument can win you over, but after lunch most arguments suddenly appear much sounder and logical (judges who had just eaten lunch were much more likely to grant parole, than they were just before lunch).
Still sometimes system one gets stuck, and that is when system two comes in. System two requires focused attention. Therefore, it can only do one thing at a time. System two is also more scrutinizing, so if you want to prevent people from fact checking your arguments - do not make them overly complicated because that will just trigger system two - instead make it short, readable, and appealing to the emotions. If you do this, system one might swallow the message and system two won’t know what happened.
These are just some examples of how we work. Read this book and I promise that you will gain much insight into how people work and how they evaluate ideas. You will, of course, learn about all the systematic biases that people, most likely including yourself, employs on a daily basis (confirmation bias, representative bias, availability heuristic, regression to the mean, etc.). Thus, this book, unlike many self-help books, will teach you about yourself and in extension make you more aware of when you might fall into a trap
I am trying to come up with something negative or even just modestly critical to say about this book, but I can’t. It really is an excellent book with content that I believe should be taught in every classroom in the world. Don’t miss it.
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What did you like best about Thinking, Fast and Slow? What did you like least?
A very large portion of the time when I am listening to audio books, I am working out or walking the dog. Unfortunately, this audio book is ill suited to those types of activities. The material is interesting and well presented, but frequently too abstract when you have to compensate for frequent minor distractions. It would be best listened to with the accompanying PDF in front of you and the rewind button easily at hand to review what the author has written when he presents examples. Despite the, the book is a good listen if you are interested in probability, statistics, economics, and psychology. I will very likely borrow a written copy of the book at some time in the future to review the sections that were just too difficult for me to fully understand in the audio format.
Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?
The key problem I found was that the author frequently presents several types of statistical comparisons at once and then asks the listener to compare them. This may be simple in a written format, but in a audible format it can be very difficult, especially without a rewind or stop button easily available. As in most technical books with a little bit of depth, one often needs a little time and review to fully understand the concepts an author is presenting. Saying that does not discredit the author, but means that the listener is going to have to spend a little more time, effort, and preparation to understand what the author is sharing with the listener. Again, listening to the book with the accompanying PDF in front of me and my finger on the index button would have likely made a huge difference in my experience.
216 of 229 people found this review helpful