Book Review – Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – moderate to difficult read, it is well written but some of the concept are tough, fairly long, but ready a little quicker then the 400+ pages

Broadly speaking, this book is about thinking. More specifically, the two systems (fast and slow), basically how you suck at thinking, and finally ‘the two selves.’ Technically, the book is broken up into five parts – two systems, heuristics & biases, overconfidence, choices, and finally the two selves.

Page 20 starts off his quick definitions of the two systems. System 1 is automatic and works quickly with little to no effort. System 2 ‘allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it’ and this usually requires concentration and can be interrupted and disrupted.

The middle three sections could possibly be rearranged but essentially include research biases, design, and problems (fallacies, sample size issues, etc.). This part of the book will blow your mind. It is unbelievable some of the things that affect research, especially anchoring. It should make you terrified to ever go before a judge.

Finally, the two selves. This is basically the self that exists (or existed, experienced something) and the ‘remembering’ self, not necessarily what happened, but what you remember happening. The implications of these two differing selves have far reaching affects. As an example, researchers had two groups of people that underwent a procedure. One group experienced the procedure and long with a high peak of pain, and then slowly fading out. The other group had a shorter experience, but didn’t fade as much, but also didn’t peak as much.

The participants rated pain levels during the event. Later, researchers asked the participants about their experience. Whom had the worse experience? Well, plot twist, it was the shorter one with the lower peak pain. Why? Because all anyone remembered was the end. The ones in pain at the end, rating their procedure as worse than those whom had the longer more painful one. Those participants rated their experience as not that bad, as all they remember is the end, which was just some amount of discomfort, instead of pain.

My Thoughts
This book is crazy. There are so many mind bending things that you will reread some sections over and over again. Some thing you just will not believe. It confirms our worst fears, we really aren’t as smart as we think. We are incredibly susceptible to leading. Subliminal messages and marketing have a much, much greater impact than we think.

Even while reading it, I wanted to think of myself as smarter. Especially the sections about coin tosses and chance. As an experienced gambler, I knew most of these things, especially if you are familiar with probably and things like ‘pot odds’. However, I’m not, as clearly showed in later examples. It is unbelievable how open to suggestion your mind is. We like to all think we are special, unique, and different, however we all fall for the same thing.

If you are looking for a book to challenge your way of thinking, put this on your list. You’ll find yourself arguing with the author, even as he argues with himself, and even as you see the clear evidence. You can learn a great from this book, especially as it related to major life decisions. Additionally, Kahneman is a great writer. I found myself jealous at various points as his summaries of complex research can read almost as easy as a novel. He is also a Nobel Laureate and if you know anything about Richard Thalor (whom makes an appearance) or behavioral economics, this book is for you.


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