Thursday, January 19, 2012

Good Reads: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Get this book. Don't wait, do it now. Trust me, you won't look at yourself, your world, or the decisions you make the same ever again. While I haven't finished this book, it's already had a profound impact on me. Some of the concepts are familiar to me as I've read some of Kahneman's research, but some are new. Kahneman is a giant in psychology and has the rare distinction of having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. He's one of the pioneers who realized (stumbled upon?) the fact that most agents in economic decision-making are anything but rational.

If I may give the crux of the story of Thinking, Fast and Slow, it is this: Your brain has two systems, System 1, and System 2. System 1 is generally automatic [think deciding if a girl is attractive.] So much of what we do in our day-to-day lives is automatic and System 1, and Kahneman illustrates this quite vividly. System 2 is more focused and concentrated thinking [think multiplying 24 x 17] and generally raises one's blood pressure and dialates one's pupils. One of the most fascinating things to me is how lazy our minds are. That's not meant as a criticism, much of the laziness of our minds is evolutionarily advantageous. Perhaps efficient is a better adjective. Yet, with the shortcuts come errors, and we make so many of them. One that I find particularly fascinating is that, when presented with a difficult problem to solve, System 1 will sometimes solve an easier problem and yet convince itself that it solved the more difficult one. And we do this so often that it's disquieting.

The more tired or depleted we are, the harder it is to engage System 2 in critical thinking. System 1 is happy to take over and go with its best guess. Sometimes, in fact often, this is fine. You don't need to think critically in many situations. Yet, in other situations, it can be disastrous.

Here are quotes:

"This is a pure System 1 response. She reacted to the threat before she recognized it."

"The world makes much less sense than you think. The coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works."

"They were primed to find flaws, and this is exactly what they found."

"We must be inclined to believe it because it has been repeated so often, but let's think it through again."

"Evaluating people as attractive or not is a basic assessment. You do that automatically whether or not you want to, and it influences you."

This book is humbling. I can easily see applications for what I'm learning in many areas of my life. Look for it in your local library or bookstore or you can buy it from Amazon by clicking the image below. Happy reading.