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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Daniel Kahneman

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3,967991,291 (4.12)119
I'm not going to give this 5 stars, though the subject matter probably deserves them. The problem causing the missing star is the style of the book; is this a hard-core scientific work, or a popular science book? It's not clear to me whether Kahneman (or his editor) had made up his mind on this.

Having said which – the book is extremely well organized, and the chapters build on each other in a coherent logical fashion (what else would you expect from a book about the power of rationality in decision-making?). Many of the conclusions are new to me, but even some of the new ones made me go "Of course! That's the way it is!", which doesn't make it true, of course, but does mean that the explanation has been convincing.

A book to re-read, probably taking notes next time, and to learn from. Interestingly enough, I found a lot of cross-references to another book I am reading alongside this (The Myth of the Rational Market). There is much here about decision-making in investment strategies that has relevance. ( )
  hugh_ashton | Dec 17, 2011 |
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Reading, fast and slow....
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
I think the book is filled with interesting ideas and concepts - some more than others. The first section of the book "Two Systems" was my favourite - things such as association, norms, attention, cognitive ease are discussed in this part. I found several ideas especially in this section that I could apply to my daily life - from how marketing works, how best to construct surveys for research purposes, to when diet fails (and why). Of course, these are only examples of how I found the information applicable to my personal life but the information given in the book is I think useful for many people, of many different lifestyles and habits.

However, the book as a whole I had a few issues with. First of all, it was rather leaning towards economics in terms of subject and since it's not a subject I find particularly interesting (especially after reading Freakonomics, ugh), I didn't like this aspect of the book. The same goes for the many examples throughout the book, meant to illustrate different concepts and ideas; they were often of the monetary kind and I found them harder to relate to (whereas the examples that were not to do with money, I found easier to understand and visualize). I think my problem was that I was expecting something a bit different, and had I known the economical lean I would've possibly passed it up.

I also thought this book overall was written in a rather dull way - had the book been written in a somewhat more "colourful" way the book could've been much more enjoyable to read. Sometimes it was more of a slog, even when the ideas themselves were interesting, and for a nonfiction book meant for "regular people" (meaning non-academic writing) this is a weakness, imo. I also felt like some concepts were dealt with a bit heavy-handedly, but this might be more of a preference thing.

I didn't agree with everything Daniel Kahneman concludes (sometimes there was maybe a bit of a tendency towards simplification) but I found the book as a whole interesting nonetheless. I do recommend it as an audiobook though (I switched between reading the physical copy and listening to the audio, speeded up, and I found the audio much easier to give a pass to the 'dull' writing).
  zombiehero | Mar 25, 2016 |
It's difficult to describe this book as it's so dense with information, studies, results and conclusions. It details thinking, fast (intuitive at a glance) and slow (active and thought provoking). There is something for everyone, parents, students, teachers, workers, managers, leaders ... and on and on. I was a bit disillusioned with many of the conclusions drawn in the last chapter and the political nature of it "spin" (or possibly an attempt to "nudge"). However, I realize this is the authors purview and understand fully (just don't agree with the logic/arguments). Other than that one negative comment, the book was awesome - read it and judge for yourself! ( )
  MathMaverick | Jan 17, 2016 |
This book was very interesting. It talks of how we make decision and how we think we are thinking the decisions out thoroughly but how our brain processes differently than what we might say. For instance people who understand probabilities may bet on something even though the likelihood of it happening is very small. whereas they should know not to waste there time. ( )
  JWarrenBenton | Jan 4, 2016 |
This book was very interesting. It talks of how we make decision and how we think we are thinking the decisions out thoroughly but how our brain processes differently than what we might say. For instance people who understand probabilities may bet on something even though the likelihood of it happening is very small. whereas they should know not to waste there time. ( )
  JWarrenBenton | Jan 4, 2016 |
A wonderful read that gives a peek into the way people think and make decisions.

The book describes the two ways the mind can work: a "system 1" that reacts automatically, quickly, and with no control (e.g. reading text, solving 2 2) and a "system 2" that is slower, more methodical, and requires effort (e.g. solving a logic puzzle, calculating 27*34). We assume that we make most decisions via system 2, but the reality is that we're all lazy, and rely on system 1 far more often. This isn't always bad - in fact, system 1 usually does just fine - but there are many cases where we can go astray.

These include heuristics and biases that everyone should be aware of: anchoring effects, availability bias, substitution, loss aversion, framing, and sunk cost fallacy.

Some great quotes:

“A reliable way of making people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”

“This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.”

“Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.”

“We marvel at the story of the firefighter who has a sudden urge to escape a burning house just before it collapses, because the firefighter knows the danger intuitively, “without knowing how he knows.” However, we also do not know how we immediately know that a person we see as we enter a room is our friend Peter.”

“we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.” ( )
  brikis98 | Nov 11, 2015 |

Like most of the other readers, I found this slow going and a bit tedious to get through. But each description of yet another psychological experiment was fascinating in itself. And I was impressed at at the scope of it all, by the time I got to the end. ( )
  varske | Oct 25, 2015 |
Fascinating and frustrating, throws the baby out with the bath water

Kahneman begins with a distinction between System 1, the automatic and seemingly effortless functions of the mind (which basically conflates perception, emotion, and the subconscious), and System 2, the effortful, volitionally controlled "executive" functions of conscious awareness. He then discusses how the ways in which they typically operate and interact can lead to a variety of predictable effects and systematic biases, such as priming, confirmation bias, the halo effect, etc. In much of this discussion he takes the contents of System 1 as the given, neglecting the fact that what gets automatized is what's done repeatedly by System 2 (though he does pay some attention to this fact later in the book in his discussion of "intuition", which is reliable precisely when based on lots of practice with good feedback in predictable, e.g. high validity, situations).

Next he follows Cass Sunstein's distinction between "econs" (basically theoretically rational agents) and "humans" (basically a descriptive rather than prescriptive account of how people actually make economic decisions), arguing that a rational agent model of economic theory is hopelessly flawed and his brand of behavioral economics is more accurate and useful. While it's true that a model of human action as inherently rational is inadequate, Kahneman swings to the other extreme and seems to delight in trying to show that it is inherently IRrational (even though he half-heartedly denies this toward the end of the book, it's pretty clear where he stands).

Finally he draws a third distinction between the "experiencing self" and the "remembering self", trying to show that people's later evaluations by their remembering self aren't consistent with their actual experience. Again, there's some very interesting material here, such as how the remembering self's tendency to focus not on the sum total of an experience but on particular moments, especially the peak and the ending, explains the narrative structure of our art forms. But Kahneman neglects that people can legitimately focus on certain aspects of their experience to the detriment or exclusion of others, and this is not at all necessarily irrational or inconsistent.

He also notes that even in measures of the well-being of the experiencing self, there is an unequal distribution with some people experiencing life as almost entirely positive while for others it's largely negative, but doesn't know what to make of this and tentatively attributes it to the effects of poverty, disease, etc. But the real explanation is implicit in (at least a charitable interpretation of) his theory: it's largely a matter of what you choose to focus on, or to put it in his terminology how you use your System 2 (which will in turn improve your System 1 over time, which Kahneman sometimes seems to recognize but at others to deny). He even goes on to discuss a bit later how victims of debilitating accidents or disease are only made unhappy by it as long as their "remembering self" dwells on it (and as someone who's been dealing with a chronic illness for a decade and had to learn to appreciate all the good in life, I should know!).

The main theme I took away from the book is that most of the errors to which people are prone are caused by failing to take the full context into account, or as Kahneman puts it, What You See Is All There Is. This comes up again and again in his discussions of overconfidence, framing effects, base rate effects, substitution (which is basically being asked for signal and answering with noise), etc. Whether you want to think of this as differentiating and integrating, zooming in and out, or in Kahneman's terms of narrow vs. broad framing or taking an "inside" vs. (a more statistical) "outside" view of a situation, it all comes down to the same thing, though again he moves from rightfully pointing out the problems of focusing too narrowly on a particular case to the opposite extreme of only considering the broader context and ignoring the particular details of a given case. This leads him to some disastrous policy recommendations such as relying exclusively on algorithms to make vital decisions in, e.g., healthcare, which could improve outcomes for many people with fairly common or straightforward problems but would result in "cookie cutter" medicine that would pretty much screw patients like me. I appreciated his discussion of those who reject the use of such algorithms as "artificial", but again he's rejected one side of a false dichotomy and swung to the other.

But the book is full of lots of practical tips as well, such as the use of such formulas to maximize predictive validity (e.g. the Apgar score, for more on which read Atul Gawande's Better), how to conduct interviews so as to make better hiring decisions, use reference class forecasting to avoid (or at least mitigate) the planning fallacy, use a pre-mortem to overcome the suppression of doubts and overconfidence, see through the endowment effect and avoid committing the sunk cost fallacy, and much, much more, which alone makes it worth reading.

This is a fascinating, and frustrating, book. Kahneman provides a wealth of information, but his explanatory framework is problematic and leads him to draw many blatantly wrong conclusions, even falling into some of the specific wrong thinking methods he discusses throughout the book (notably theory-induced blindness)! That said, the careful reader can glean substantial value from it.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R24COWZBPFJV1F ( )
  AshRyan | Aug 31, 2015 |
There are many thoughtful and informative reviews already so just a few comments. This took a long time to read due to various interruptions. The first was my husband noticing the title of my public library copy and starting it. A few days later he ordered his own copy but continued reading mine until the new one arrived. Then I did no serious reading for a while because of Real Life stuff. However, I recently picked it up again and just finished reading it. Kahneman is very readable and gives plenty of examples of his topics, including biases in our thinking, how we actually make decisions, our experiencing shelves, and our remembering shelves. To get the most from this book would, I believe, require more than one reading, but it does give the reader a lot to consider even on the first reading.
  hailelib | Aug 8, 2015 |
Very good. Surely provides some nice background to Shakespeare's "What a piece of work is a man". ( )
  StanleyPhang | Jul 26, 2015 |
So much to think about after reading this. WYSIATI (what you see is all there is) one of many explanations for how our minds may be biased and make bad judgements. Easily read descriptions of psychological research by the nobel prize winner told in a style to appeal to our story loving minds. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
A horrible book! The author has overanalyzed the subject. There is nothing to gain through reading this book. The author mentions in the introduction that he intends this piece of work for Waterville
water cooler discussions. I felt it's an overkill for anyone wanting to have some intellectual discussions.

I skipped to a chapter that I was interested in and found out on skimming through that his over analysis has killed the interest for me.

dropped. Sorry. ( )
  MugenHere | Jul 12, 2015 |
My wife frequently ribs me about all the monotonous non-fiction I prefer to read, but even I couldn't make it through this one. I don't see how Thinking, Fast and Slow became a thing. It's an interesting concept, unnaturally stretched to over 500 pages, and set in some of the driest writing I've ever read for a bestseller. ( )
1 vote Daniel.Estes | Jun 24, 2015 |
35% done ( )
  ecoprob | Apr 25, 2015 |
eBook version also available from Christchurch City Libraries
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Review on Google books http://goo.gl/ph4l1d
Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology challenging the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of the world's most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound impact on many fields-including business, medicine, and politics-but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research in one book.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make choices. One system is fast, intuitive, and emotional; the other is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities-and also the faults and biases-of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behaviour. The importance of properly framing risks, the effects of cognitive biases on how we view others, the dangers of prediction, the right ways to develop skills, the pros and cons of fear and optimism, the difference between our experience and memory of events, the real components of happiness-each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.

Drawing on a lifetime's experimental experience, 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 professional and our personal lives-and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you take decisions and experience the world.
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  COREEducation | Apr 1, 2015 |
An amazing book for a few different reasons. First, his whole point of it, the two ways of thinking... but he broadens his scope and includes very practical implications. This is a very important read.

The reason I read it was because I saw it on a syllabus of a famous NYTimes columnist in his Yale class on "Humility." I thought, a book on psychology of the mind, relating to social economics, as it pertains to human decisions and life decisions- being a text in a course on humility. Fascinating! Do I envy those students. ( )
  aegossman | Feb 25, 2015 |
Kahneman writes about the mind and its operating in what he calls System 1, the experiencing self, immediate, surface, quick, and shallow. And System 2, the remembering self, rational, statistical, precise. When I was finished reading the book I was reminded of the 16th century novel - Don Quixote. In a way Don Quixote was a System 2 thinker, not that he used statistical reasoning but he pushed everything he saw through the grid of his own particular reasoning - chivalry. His counterpart was a System 1 thinker Sancho Panza. Both writers have similar insights. They created imaginary people and ask the questions what would they do in given situations. Kahneman gives us two choices, those being the more immediate impulsive, gut actor or the one who forces thoughts through the grid of statistical reasoning. The truth of the matter is there are more than two different types of reasoning, statistical reasoning being just one option. Cervantes gives us another option, basically the person who pushes every thought and action through his tightly embraced philosophical construct of chivalry. And of course he went crazy. This book was a bit of work for me because the author is often drawing you to System 2 thinking which makes you work. The book for me was well worth the read. ( )
  SamTekoa | Feb 7, 2015 |
This isn’t a standard pop science book. From the cover and title you could be fooled into thinking it is, but ultimately it’s far deeper reaching and better evidenced than anything from Malcolm Gladwell or the Freakonomics team. Deeper but equally as accessible, assuming depth doesn’t put you off.

The title’s a tad deceptive as Kahnemann admits up front – the fast and slow systems of our mind he posits are a simply a metaphor to aid understanding. It’s also actually a far wider examination than simply ‘how we think’. What it does do is look at ‘fast’ thinking (what we might term intuition) and how it can lead us into tricking ourselves thanks to conscious or unconscious biases, and also how our deeper thinking mind interacts with that. By the end you’ll be wondering exactly how rational any of us are (answer: none of us are very rational, even at the best of times). And it’s always amusing to see the economic mantra of people always being rational undermined, even before ‘information asymmetry’ is taken into account.

Eye-opening, but be prepared for this one to take plenty of time to read and absorb. ( )
2 vote JonArnold | Jan 20, 2015 |
What an insufferable book. Glad that's finished. ( )
  Lucifey | Jan 10, 2015 |
This book is a good example of why you should not read too much about a book before reading it. The hype around this book was enormous. Everybody loved it. It was revolutionary. In the end, it's not a bad book, but I didn't think it was all that great, either. It is an interesting introduction to how we think, peppered with lots of examples, but it falls prey to what appears to be a lot of determinism, while acknowledging a smattering of environmental impact. In reality, I suspect much of what the author says is correct, but I did catch some things where he was incorrect or simplistic about something I do know something about, which always makes me suspicious of the things that are outside my usual field. Overall, I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'd recommend it for others to read because I just wasn't that enthusiastic about his writing style (repetitive and somewhat dry) or the overall dynamic of the book. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | Dec 17, 2014 |
Good info but really boring and dull. Tough read ( )
  dlott | Nov 5, 2014 |
Not the most accessible read on the subject, but definitely the most credible and well researched. It has me thinking about thinking differently, and will likely cause me to pause longer when making future decisions. ( )
1 vote lcalvin83 | Oct 25, 2014 |
Although this book is very long winded, there are some really interesting things to learn about how we think. ( )
  timleggett | Sep 21, 2014 |
After not learning much from Stumbling on Happiness, I expected this to be the same, but it actually had some very good points I hadn't seen before. The example that comes to mind is this: if you ask some people to evaluate a single lecture, and ask others to guess how well that lecturer will be doing in five years, the answers they give are identical. This illustrates matching of levels across different scales and ignorance of regression to the mean. There are several other important heuristics and biases explained, with good examples that actually make it believable that people think this way. (Of course, this assumes that you're "in on the joke" -- if you find yourself tempted to defend these patently incorrect reasoning methods, as apparently many of the participants in the studies mentioned in this book did, beware!)

I do not agree with the author's political conclusions, and do not agree that they are required by the evidence provided earlier in the book. But this doesn't even come up until the last few chapters. ( )
  Kenoubi | Sep 6, 2014 |
Brimming with fantastic information and fascinating ideas that are applicable to everyday life! This book made me reconsider information I take for granted and reevaluate perspective in general. ( )
1 vote LaPhenix | Jul 17, 2014 |
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