Book Report #4

#4: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This book by Daniel Kahneman was a satisfying read which made a clear explanation for the sense that I believe we’ve all had that humans don’t always use the best reasoning when making decisions.

In a detailed but comprehensible fashion Kahneman creates simple constructs such as System 1 and System 2 to explain the departure from rationality we see when Humans make decisions in certain contexts.

An excerpt from the conclusion nicely summarizes these constructs, but this is no substitute for the learning provided by reading the book in detail:

The two characters were the intuitive System 1, which does the fast thinking, and the effortful and slower System 2, which does the slow thinking, monitors System 1, and maintains control as best it can within its limited resources. The two species were the fictitious Econs, who live in the land of theory, and the Humans, who act in the real world. The two selves are the experiencing self, which does the living, and the remembering self, which keeps score and makes the choices.

Through these basic constructs Kahneman guides us through decades of personal and aggregated research showing systemic failures in the thought processes of our fellow humans.

After reading about half the book I took a rather depressive viewpoint on humanity. In discussing with my roommate and curling expert Steve Bice he provided a much more positive viewpoint in his own funny example, “It’s not like humans just sit there at dinner eating their fork and smashing their plate on their head.”

Touché, Steve, and Kahneman agrees: he makes clear in the book’s conclusion that he doesn’t view Humans as “irrational”, just “not rational”:

Irrational is a strong word, which connotes impulsivity, emotionality, and a stubborn resistance to reasonable argument. I often cringe when my work with Amos 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.

Although Humans are not irrational, they often need help to make more accurate judgments and better decisions, and in some cases policies and institutions can provide that help.

Anyone who possesses a Human mind and relies on decisions made by this mind would benefit from reading this book.

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One Response to Book Report #4

  1. Pingback: Book Report #7: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain | kfarr

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