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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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3,179801,760 (4.17)103
hugh_ashton's review
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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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. ( )
  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. ( )
  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. ( )
  LaPhenix | Jul 17, 2014 |
Although I already knew a reasonable fraction of the research underlying this book, Daniel Kahneman synthesizes it in a magisterial work that should be read by all economists and many others besides. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Difficult reading, but well worth the insights ( )
  RBarfuss | Jun 21, 2014 |
Revealing insight into different ways our mind works. I have already had fun observing others and myself making decisions similar to the ones in the research, and could immediately use newly gained knowledge to reconsider the logic of my thinking. Excellent stuff, and probably something kids should be given the opportunity to observe at an early age, to have better chances to make the right decisions. ( )
  flydodofly | Jun 20, 2014 |
A must read for anyone who thinks thry think. ( )
  davevanl | Jun 19, 2014 |
Riddle me this:

"If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets"—100 minutes or 5 minutes (65)?

If you answered "100 minutes," you're not alone ... and you're dead wrong. Think about it. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman explains why.

We have two types of thinking systems (thus, the title of the book). System one is intuitive and answers quickly. System two requires more thought and answers slowly. Both systems are valuable and necessary. Kahneman's spent his lifetime studying these systems and has developed and published many experiments over the years (including the one above) which exploit the flaws in our systems.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman helps us to recognize when our minds let us down (i.e. narrative fallacies, planning fallacies, WYSIATI, etc.) and gives us the tools to recognize our own errors.

This book is detailed, thorough, and absolutely fascinating. Kahneman walks the reader through many of the test scenarios he developed over the years. Even if you prepare yourself for the "trick" and try to answer correctly, human nature wins out. It's certainly a good dose of humility!

Many of these experiments were carried out with his friend and colleague, Amos Tversky, to whom the book is dedicated. The friendship between them and their mutual fascination with how the mind works makes this book on sociology border on memoir at times.

Read and be fascinated at your incredibly powerful and deeply flawed mind! ( )
1 vote StephenBarkley | Jun 1, 2014 |
I'm not sure if I got anything out of this book. The book was well written with lots of interesting examples but all too often the author would present a thought experiment and say "Everybody knows Option B is better" when its not clearly better at all. There were frequent references to "Amos and I did this experiment" but none could top the sentence "We were amused to realize that we were unable to assess our current wealth within tens of thousands of dollars". I found that quite incendiary and insulting as if to simply show off how much money the authors had in a book that was frequently about gaining money through a set of two risky options. It is a well-written book but hard to say what I really got out of it - certainly not a better insight into System 1 and System 2 thinking. ( )
  pbirch01 | May 6, 2014 |
I liked most of this book. The author's presentation is enlightening when he lets readers test their intuitive response before discussing the matter in more detail. I learned a lot especially from part II: Heuristics and biases. However, I think the final parts IV and V of this book were superfluous. By cutting them out the book could have been trimmed from 400 to 250 pages without any significant losses. The author takes great pleasure in recounting how "Amos and I once conducted an experiment where we did this and that...", but he keeps repeating it far too long. In parts IV and V the experiments become decreasingly meaningful and the main argument becomes diluted as the author fails to connect them to the earlier parts of the book. So even though the early parts of the book constitute an interesting psychological analysis, the end is exasperating.
  thcson | Mar 26, 2014 |
If you walk in the woods at night and see a line across the path, might it be a snake? Luckily your System 1 thought process warns you of danger and you stop. Then System 2 takes over, analyses the situation and realizes the line is just a stick. System 1 is fast, and system 2 is slow. And the problem arises when we imagine our system 1 cnoclusion doesn’t need any further thought.

Optical illusions are familiar illustrations of fast and slow thinking. When we’ve been fooled before, we recognize the illusion and immediately jump to looking with system 2. But logical illusions, emotional illusions and cultural illusions can leave us existing in a world that’s not quite as solid and real as we imagine.

Are law courts fair? Are inoculations safe? Is the stock market as risky as the gambling table? And what do advertising and politics have in common? The examples of Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, are simple and easy to understand but pack an intriguing punch. Each could be “framed” with a list of excuses, explaining away the proof. But together they form a convincing argument for conscious thought, for “reframing” the data on which we make decisions, and for practicing logical thinking.

We’d be embarrassed to be fooled by a five-year-old’s optical illusion. We should probably be equally embarrassed to be fooled by our lazy thought processes, but this book offers a chance to catch our errors before they grow. I enjoyed the read—it’s long and fairly dense, but it tells the human story of an investigator, the scientific story of hypothesis and experiment, and the economical story of illogic’s consequences.

Disclosure: We read it for our book group. Some of us were impressed, others less so. But we didn’t divide along subject lines. There were artists and scientists in both camps. I’d recommend you try it for yourself. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Mar 5, 2014 |
So Thinking Fast and Slow is not my typical sort of popular science. In fact if it weren't for the great reviews it got on CR and all the hype after its publication, I'd probably would've passed on this one. I'm glad I didn't, but I still found this book to be outside of my wheelhouse. There is a lot of tremendous insights into decision making and real world economic theory to be gleaned from these pages. (I have more highlights from this book than any other on my Kindle) The first two parts of the book a fascinating psychology. There is just so much to think about from these chapters alone to make a very good book. However, the latter half of part 3 when Kahneman begins to delve more into our decision making on a more economical level is where I began to think his conclusions were a bit too simple. While luck is an important factor in outcomes Kahneman's examples and evidence when put under the microscope don't really support his conclusions that blind luck is just as good or superior to experts. It was just to neat to be believed and from what I've found the relationship of randomness in our lives is profoundly more complicated. And part 4 while initially very interesting became very repetitive. I guess there is only so much you can do with abstract economic theory before it runs out of steam.

What I really respect about Thinking Fast and Slow is that Kahneman doesn't shy away from the science. The science is upfront and the story is secondary. This is something Gladwell and the like should take note of. There are no easy conclusions here, no big take away you can sell to others. Instead it is series of logical conclusions that build upon the whole to form a theory. This isn't a self improvement book disguised as science. ( )
1 vote stretch | Feb 2, 2014 |
Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes in this book his many years of research into decision-making and behavioral economics. He draws a distinction between System 1 and System 2 thinking. There are many interesting insights to guide our own decision-making in this book. ( )
  proflinton | Jan 30, 2014 |
Thought-provoking, and makes me look at my own habits of thought more carefully -- did I make that decision with System 1 or System 2, and was that appropriate? ( )
  castiron | Jan 17, 2014 |
Powerful & important reading. ( )
  MelissaZD | Jan 1, 2014 |
Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics, and this book carefully analyses studies involving human decision-making.

While the conclusions are more "bad news" for the Austrian/Chicago school of economics, and the libertarian model is destroyed by the facts presented here [411 ff], the book is far from ideological in presentation. The author claims to cringe when his work is credited with the demonstration that human choices are irrational, when in fact their research only showed that Humans are not well described by the libertarian "rational-agent" model. That model is the foundation for libertarian public policy, it is theoretical and wrong. In fact, the admiration for the myth of market "efficiency" in allocating goods is wrong. The title and drift of Milton Friedman's book, "Free to Choose", is shown to be unsupportable.

Freedom is never "free", the chooser is rarely informed, and society needs protection from predators who exploit weakness. The data supports what is called "libertarian paternalism" by the economist Richard Thaler and the jurist Cass Sunstein in their 2008 book, "Nudge". The flagship example of their behavioral policy is "Save More Tomorrow", sponsored by the US Congress in a coalition between liberals and conservatives. This is the policy now largely characterizing the Obama Administration. [414] Obama appointed Sunstein to serve as administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, described in the 2010 Report of the Office of Management and Budget.

Humans do not make rational or good decisions without help. Informed and unintrusive regulations and standards, with enforcement against piratical assaults, can provide the help that is needed to maintain a free market. ( )
  keylawk | Dec 25, 2013 |
The beginning was great, but then the author got so into disproving this one theory that he went on and on and I gave up on the book.
  heike6 | Oct 24, 2013 |
No surprise that h. Sapiens is subject to emotionally driven prejudice, snap judgement and leaping to biassed conclusions, Or that rationality is hard work, and not always present when we imagine it is. The striking thing in this book is the detail of how all this works, the trivial factors that can influence us, and the well- researched evidence that backs it. Example of the trivial: opinions change not only when we are in a good or bad mood, but that the mood can be simulated by holding a pencil in the teeth (smile! Go for it!) or just frowning (misery! Work it out cautiously!). Interesting too that we are more rational/logical when worried, we take more precautions and think, but not when tired (rational "system 2" is fundamentally lazy; how experts also get it wrong (overconfidence), but nonetheless expertise can be learned and give snap judgements that are valid ; how readily we dismiss contrary evidence...and much more. Not a light read, tho aimed at the lay,; my own belief in my rationall powers was duly humbled by many of the examples and thought experiments, most of which I got wrong or gave up on. K. Has a genial touch of humility and warmth, admits his own errors and teaches us from them, as well as from his successes. lovely that he gets nobel for economics without knowing anything about economics. A kindly old Jewish uncle full of wisdom and sympathy for human weakness. ( )
  vguy | Oct 24, 2013 |
Fascinating discussion about how we humans make decisions, economic or otherwise. I particularly enjoyed the way Kahneman illustrated his points by first having readers try various exercises which made the book somewhat interactive and reinforced the observations that Kahneman makes. ( )
  nmele | Oct 15, 2013 |
Kahneman explains in simple terms how our mind processes situations and explains why we commonly make mistakes and irrational decisions due to systemic preconceptions and reliance on experience. The book contains a number of experiments, studies, and like examinations of behavior and thinking patterns. Kahneman also painstakingly explains how to avoid decision-making blunders and why these are blunders. Interesting reading. ( )
  CarterPJ | Oct 9, 2013 |
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