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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very wise and interesting read, with a few niggles
This book summarises the latest psychological research on human judgement, in particular how we think irrationally, jump to conclusions and fall prey to failures of intuition.

To give you a feel, here is an example from chapter 17. Have a look at this statement and see if you can guess why it might be true:

"Highly intelligent women tend to marry...
Published 24 months ago by Hfffoman

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322 of 356 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thinking Well, Thinking Poorly
You are at the cinema watching the latest film. Fifteen minutes before the end, the projector explodes and the screening is terminated prematurely. You feel that the experience was ruined. However, Daniel Kahneman knows better - he asserts that you are mistaken! Your own mind has deceived you. A combination of `duration neglect' and the `peak end rule' is responsible...
Published on 9 Feb 2012 by M. D. Holley


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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very wise and interesting read, with a few niggles, 17 July 2012
By 
Hfffoman (Kent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Paperback)
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This book summarises the latest psychological research on human judgement, in particular how we think irrationally, jump to conclusions and fall prey to failures of intuition.

To give you a feel, here is an example from chapter 17. Have a look at this statement and see if you can guess why it might be true:

"Highly intelligent women tend to marry men who are less intelligent than they are"

Did you find a nice explanation? The book will show you why no explanation is necessary. It is a statistical necessity. It will also explain why it is very difficult to avoid believing spurious explanations and how pervasive and dangerous they can be.

That is just one tiny example. The book is absolutely packed with fascinating and thought provoking discussion of a wide range of similar topics. It is almost a must-read for anyone interested in human judgement or broader questions about how the mind works and one of very few books I keep on a special shelf for reading again.

There were a few things that niggled with me. I will mention these but please don't be put off. Even with the niggles it is an intelligent and valuable book.

The writing is clear and easy to understand. However it is a bit repetitive. After I got a feel for where the repetition was coming I often found myself skipping or skimming half a paragraph. Comparing this with Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, a book covering similar ground, Ariely's book gets its points across in a much punchier way and presents a similar amount of material in (I guess) half as many words.

The author gives other researchers credit where it is due but when talking about his own work I feel he overdoes his self-publicity. I have read plenty of books by acclaimed scientists and they don't boast about how good their work as much as Kahneman does. Some people may not mind this, or may not even notice it. Maybe I am being too sensitive but I did find it irritating so I think it is fair to mention it.

One final, very small, niggle. The book often uses names for psychological findings - the endowment effect, the halo effect, loss aversion, and many others. Usually these are widely accepted terms. However, Kahneman insists on coining a few of his own that are not accepted terms. The most notable, where he names different types of thinking "System 1" and "System 2", is central to the book and, although he gives a reasonable justification for it, it gave me a slight feeling of quackery which is a shame as this is an extremely intelligent book and not quackery at all. Someone has since pointed out to me that the terms System 1 and System 2 may become mainstream in which case I owe Kahnemann an apology and happily give it to him.

Because of the niggles, I started by giving the book 4 stars, but on reflection, it is so full of wise discussion and useful advice, I realized I was being churlish and gave it the extra star.

If you are interested in the subject I would strongly recommend reading both this and Predictably Irrational. Neither the style nor the material is the same. If you only want to read one book, or are new to the subject, you might prefer Predictably Irrational as it is more fun to read, and its ideas will grab you more quickly. I read Predictably Irrational in a couple of sittings but Fast and Slow Thinking took me 3 weeks as it is 400 pages of small print and I usually felt tired after reading 1-2 chapters. On the other hand, Thinking Fast and Slow will thoroughly reward the greater investment of effort. Another excellent book which predates this by 14 years is Hare Brain Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton. This has a different take on the subject and, unfortunately, does not seem to be acknowledged anywhere.
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322 of 356 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thinking Well, Thinking Poorly, 9 Feb 2012
By 
M. D. Holley (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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You are at the cinema watching the latest film. Fifteen minutes before the end, the projector explodes and the screening is terminated prematurely. You feel that the experience was ruined. However, Daniel Kahneman knows better - he asserts that you are mistaken! Your own mind has deceived you. A combination of `duration neglect' and the `peak end rule' is responsible. You have difficulties distinguishing your memories from your experiences. He claims you found the experience blissful (despite having missed the end), no matter what you believe.

This is an example of one of the rather silly assertions which can be found towards the end of this 418 page book. There are quite a few equally foolish theories throughout the last 200 pages.

This is a book of two halves. The first half is absolutely inspirational. The writing style here is excellent. In order to illustrate his points, the author provides many exercises for the reader to perform. In doing these you conduct little experiments on your own brain, which will astonish you time and again by the obvious errors and self deceptions it keeps making. By page 200 I was feeling this was one of the very best books I have ever read. The material shows beyond doubt that the mind of the human is full of flaws, biases and delusions.

And then comes the second half. The writing becomes more turgid, the little exercises stop coming, and the lessons become more and more flaky, culminating in the example I give at the beginning. What went wrong?

Mr Kahneman points out that the human brain is biased towards finding coherence where there is none, and that we are susceptible to a frightening level of overconfidence. No where is this better illustrated than in the second half of his own book. Having found many instances of irrational thinking, particularly where statistics are concerned, Mr Kahneman seems to become obsessed with irrationality, and seeks to find the same pattern in all aspects of human behaviour. He becomes more and more overconfident with the tidy and coherent story he has constructed, and produces some spectacularly silly theories as a result.

I would give the second half of the book barely one star. But read it for the first 200 pages, which fully deserve five stars!
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183 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick thinking, 12 Nov 2011
By 
Hande Z (Singapore) - See all my reviews
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Daniel Kahneman has produced an excellent book. He continues to build and expand on the famous paper he and Amos Tversky published in 1974 ("Judging Under Uncertainty", a copy of which is usefully appended to this book) and has since spawned innumerable books on the theme (eg Wray Herbert's "On Second Thought"), and even related themes like Nassim Taleb's "Black Swan". "Thinking Fast and Slow" is not a textbook; it is intended for the layman who wants to have a clear and deep understanding of man's cognitive functions. Most of Kahneman's studies will amaze readers not familiar with this subject. For example, when tested, it is still remarkable that the clinical judgments of trained professionals are less accurate than statistical predictions based on a few scores or ratings. Hence counsellors who interviewed students were less accurate in their predictions on the students' performance than statistical predictions using only a few denominators such as High School grades and aptitude test results. The reason Kahneman, a psychologist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics was that his (and Tversky's) thesis was applied by economists to understand why economic and financial predictions so often go wildly wrong when they were (or so it was believed) so carefully and rationally made.

This review also hopes to point readers to a book I read as a student in 1967. It's called "Straight and Crooked Thinking" by R H Thouless. That book has so many similar points and Thouless was a teaching psychologist from Cambridge University in the UK. Although Thouless' book concerns flaws in the use of language and logic in thinking, it also discusses the effect of hidden bias and prejudice. Straight and Crooked Thinking has just been published in the 5th edition by R H Thouless' grandson, C R Thouless. The first was published in 1930. Kahneman's book will likely be as long lived.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for all, 2 Feb 2014
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Psychology, economics, policy making are all in this book, and none of it is written in an alienating manner. Very clear cut explanation of concepts. I particularly like that every chapter ends with some conversation points which tell you how to discuss what you just learned. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge a (very good) book by its cover: A cautionary tale, 21 Sep 2012
By 
Andrew Sutherland "Sutho" (Surrey outposts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Paperback)
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Other reviews here more than cover the content of this book but I want to review it anyway, mainly to offer a cautionary tale about not judging a book on the basis of disliking... other books. Because I was initially highly wary about this book, mistaking it for one of these pop science/social psychology-types which have become so successful in the last decade. I'm talking about books like Nudge or the Freakonomics series or those by Malcolm Gladwell (e.g. Blink), Nassim Nicholas Taleb (e.g. The Black Swan), Tim Harford (as the Undercover Economist) etc... all very loosely akin insofar as, despite having substantive statistical contents, they apply their own (seemingly dry discipline) to everyday situations and offer quirky `behaviouralist' ways of understanding the world. They seem to have arrived at a shared formula for making maths palatable to the general reader. Indeed their readability has led to their adoption by corporate culture and a rather odd state of affairs whereby `economics' books have become airport reading. Not a problem itself but in order to make the technical accessible, many of these authors have traded off scientific rigour in favour of readability. In sacrificing the maths, a certain degree of imprecision has been accepted as OK (see for example the lamentable (non)coverage of regression analysis in Freakonomics). Whereas I don't think it's OK. So I pretty much wrote-off `Thinking, Fast and Slow' when I saw the endorsements by Levitt (Freakonomics), Thaler (Nudge) et al on the cover. But I was wrong to do so. First, Kahneman knows his apples. Unlike Gladwell, he's won the Nobel Prize (in economics, despite being a psychologist). Second, much like Leonard Mlodinow (see `The Drunkard's Walk' for a stats equiv.), Kahmenn is a translator of behavioural economics into English but he doesn't jettison scientific rigour in so doing. He trusts the reader's intellect sufficiently to actually show you the correlation coefficients AND spin a good yarn. The chapters here all are short, beautifully clearly written, and none requires any special learning... but some are borderline taxing. But rather than detracting from the experience, my thinking is that this makes for greater intellectual satisfaction for the reader.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will change the way you think about decision-making, 4 April 2012
By 
Jonathan Gifford (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a marvellous book. I'd hesitate to go quite so far as Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness, who is quoted on the dust cover as saying, 'In the same league as The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud'. Well, maybe not quite in that league, but only because this work is the continuation of many strands of thought in psychology rather than an epoch-changing , intellectual bombshell. The ideas in this book are already, however, changing the ways in which all of us think about the way that we think (if that makes sense) and many of those strands of thought (sorry) were in any case started by Kahneman himself with his earlier collaborator, Amos Tversky, who died in 1996. Kahneman writes, selflessly and touchingly, about his fourteen years working with Tversky: `Our collaboration was the focus of our lives, and the work we did together during those years was the best either of us ever did.' Maybe Taleb is right, and in fifty years' time Kahneman and Tversky will be even more famous than they are now, and people will be asking, `Sigmund Who?' It could happen.

There are two kinds of thinking, says Kahneman, slow thinking (like doing hard mental arithmetic) and fast thinking, which happens so quickly that we don't even notice. Slow thinking takes a lot of brain energy. Our pupils dilate, revealing the increased energy that is required for such difficult mental tasks. Because our available mental energy is limited, when we are working on such `slow-thinking' mental tasks, we will be unable to take on other mental tasks and may fail even to perceive apparently obvious things: there is a strict limit to how much attention our brain can deliver at any one time.

As a result, we make most of our decisions the easy way, as in, `This seemed to work before, let's try this route again'- what psychologists call `heuristics' and what we tend to call `rules of thumb'. Our brains, not surprisingly, follow the `law of least effort'. If there is a quick route to a solution, we will take it. We hardly even notice that we have taken the quick route: our brains have the capacity to challenge any such `quick' solution but, in general - guess what? - we let it go. The problem, says Kahneman, is that our `quick thinking' is subject to a disturbingly large number of `systematic biases and errors.' Kahneman goes on to investigate an alarming number of these systematic errors and biases, of which only one is the `anchoring' effect: our decisions are affected, for example, by a number of which we have recently been made aware. `If you are asked whether Ghandi was more than 114 year old when he died you will end up with a much higher estimate of his age at death than you would if the anchoring question referred to death at 35.' In the same way, your idea of how much you should pay for a house is influenced by the asking price - even if you want to believe that it wasn't.

Our decisions can also be 'primed' by what has recently come to our attention. This leads to some relatively obvious effects - we are more likely to vote for legislation in favour of school funding if the polling station is in a school; and some far stranger effects - students exposed to a number of words related to old age walk more slowly after the exposure than groups exposed to other words. They do not report that they were aware that the words had a common theme (old age) and they are not concious of the change to their behaviour (walking more slowly).

'Substitution' causes us to answer an easier question ('How do I feel about this') rather than a harder question (What do I think about this?). 'Availability' causes us to overestimate the effect of more dramatic events, because they are more 'front of mind'. The list goes on . . .

The book offers a wealth of other compelling examples of the ways in which our `fast thinking' is prone to error, all clearly suggested by the results from a number of elegant experiments. If you don't agree with Kahneman's conclusions, devise your own experiments and test the results: this is science, not metaphysics.

Thinking Fast and Slow may (perhaps) be less famous than The Wealth of Nations or The Interpretation of Dreams in fifty years' time, but it's a lot more readable than the former and a lot more scientific than the latter. And it will change your life - or at least how you feel about the reliability and robustness of our decision-making.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Think hard before you read this book!, 20 Feb 2013
This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Paperback)
This book is printed in very small type. It is a very long book.

Unfortunately it is not interesting enough to justify its length.

It always amazes me how many psychology experiments are presented as rigorously scientific, when in fact their results are based on immeasurables and subjective ideas such as how successful the experimental subjects were in later life after the initial experiemnt.

And why they take so long to come to conclusions which are merely common sense. A lot of what's in this book amounts to little more than confirming that people frequently can't be bothered to think things through, preferring to jump to conclusions, rely on "gut feel" and feel self-satisfied about their own self-perceived abilities.

Well, I never!

Think things through before you read this book. Calculate how long it will take you to read it and how much time you may have left to live! There may be other things you would prefer to do.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book, 1 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Paperback)
This book changes how you understand - and demonstrates how little you can understand - about your own mind and personality. Moreover it isn't reductionist and doesn't claim more - or almost anything - for the neuroscience that will one day come to underpin the science that is involved. It's a book that sobers one up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This should be required reading, 17 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Paperback)
Kahneman will give you a greater understanding of decision making, both your own and also why and how others reach the decisions that they do. Indispensible wisdom.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kahneman brilliance, 13 Jan 2014
By 
L. P. Williams (Nottingham,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Paperback)
Stimulating read. Having heard the author speak, I'm duly impressed by his writings. A sensitive view of the human condition.
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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Paperback - 10 May 2012)
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