34 of 36 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 17 months ago by Hfffoman
271 of 298 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 22 months ago by M. D. Holley
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why we get probability wrong - conscious and unconscious thinking,Thinking, Fast and Slow is an important book. It opens with him introducing the two characters of his story - 'System 1 (Thinking Fast) which operates automatically and quickly with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control and System 2 (Thinking Slow) which allocates attentions to effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations'. He does this by first displaying a photo of an angry looking woman and then asking us to look at a problem - 17 X 24. We can reach conclusions about the demeanour of the young woman very quickly but need to engage in rational steps to be precise in our response to the second problem (or at least most of us will). He makes the interesting point that most of us think of System 2, our rational self, as being us - of being our 'controller', but it is System 1 that is the hero of his book, which summarises decades of his work, and Kahneman calls System 2 the 'lazy controller'. System 2 is lazy because it gets tired...there is a finite amount of energy for thought and willpower and System 1, by contrast, cannot be turned off.
I liked the examples that Kahneman gives us of the different thought processes - how intuition gets most things right and point out where it can get things very wrong - and probability is one. This is because System 1 is good at seeing patterns and making generalisations about them so it wants to do that even when there is no pattern. He's also good on how we think that our ability to plan is better than it is. Some of the insights he delivers is that judges are influenced in their clemency by their blood sugar levels -they are more forgiving directly after lunch and fund managers do not make much better decisions than chance thought they think themselves skilful. In turns out we are not onsistent in our action and very influenced by features of our surroundings - for example a higher percentage of people helped to pick up dropped papers if they had just found a dime in a phone booth. He gives us insights about the way we process information, and that in turn makes us think about the decisions and how well founded they are. This book and the research by Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky is important because most economists used to operate on the premise that people make rational choices. Yet in reality, studies show that people often don't; we'd rather avoid losing something that we already possess than go for a bigger potential gain on the off chance of a coin toss, for example.
One of the other things I found fascinating was the focusing illusion - "Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you're thinking about it"- because something has our focus we give it more weight than it deserves, it assumes a disproportionate importance. Kahneman's phrase is that the brain is "a machine for jumping to conclusions," and the focusing illusion, anchoring and prospect theory are all ways in which we can jump to the wrong ones.
Kahneman won the Nobel prize for economics (after Tversky's death) and this book is precise and informative and rewarding. Kahneman is readable but I had the feeling that it became more hard work and less engaging as the book went on and it won't have your turning the page like your holiday thriller. Each chapter ends with a list of sentences which summarise and exemplify the chapter. For example one for the chapter Less is More is ''In most situations, a direct comparison makes people more careful and more logical. But not always. Sometimes intuition beats logic even if the correct answer stares you in the face.'' I found these very useful and found the book engaging..though it's not one I could read front to back. I liked reading a chapter in between my fiction while I was on holiday - and then annoyed my friends by quoting it to them. For a while I had the illusion that my rational self would improve my decision making because of this new information - and then it got lazy again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read,
The basic premise of the book is that human beings are not as rational as they think they are and that their mind is not as reliable as they think it is. The polemic put forward by the author is very interesting. In essence what it is saying is that human beings have only so much energy they can expend on thinking, therefore we prioritise where we use our brain power and once that energy is running low we then make assumptions about things and these assumptions may not be as reliable as we think they are.
The book itself could be split into two halves, the first is great and allows the reader to use "experiments" to test how their brain works and the traps it falls into to in the way it thinks and so illustrates the authors thesis very well. The second half of the book is not as good as he expands the "irrational thinking" thesis much further, whilst using less and less examples. I must say in comparison to the first half of the book, the second half ideas are less credible that those put forward in the first half and some are not believable at all.
Overall, this is a book of two halves. The first is brilliant, inspired, focused and eye opening, it uses brain experiments to illustrate the points and which do seem to prove the thesis. The second half is not as good and I feel the author tries to over-expand his ideas to pad the book out, without using experiments to prove his point.
The basic theory appears to be reliable but after page 210 the ideas put forward seem to be less reliable. Recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting and really fascinating,
This book was really interesting....I always think of myself as having Spock like logic (though my husband would beg to differ I am sure) but yes, I do think that I apply logic and work out answers in a methodical manner - now I doubt that I ever make a logical decision having read this book!
It made me laugh in places, the analogies it gave and the examples and quizzes that I undertook.....really amusing and surprising - all wrapped up in a nice and easy to read book!
My lack of a fifth star is purely because I found it dropped off towards the end and got a bit too - dubious....but up until that point I would have given it 5.
Well worth reading for anyone who is interested in the mechanisms of the human mind!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real-world examples make lofty social psychology so accessible,
This isn't just a summary of concepts and research findings, though. Kahneman adopts a thread of real-world application throughout the book, using 'office water-cooler gossip' as a way to signpost just how well this information could serve your life, both professionally and personally. Like a skilled teacher, he brings you to an 'aha!' moment at the end of every chapter, by presenting usable, instantly applicable examples of the concepts he has just described. By positioning these ideas within real life, you'll find yourself frequently shocked at how much you, yourself overrate the degree of free will you exercise in making decisions.
It's accessibly presented, perhaps surprisingly so, coming from such an academic behemoth. At the same time, it's not only superbly cross-referenced in the appendices, but also contains two of Kahneman's co-authored papers in full at the back of the book, so you can see where it all began.
It's also touching that there are numerous, sometimes deeply emotional nods to Kahneman's long-missed late research partner Amos Tversky.
The advice 'Buy it fast, read it slowly' on the book jacket is particularly apt. It's worth enjoying - and soaking up - every word of wisdom from those years of work.
18 of 21 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,
86 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disbelief is not an option,
This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Hardcover)And neither, for me, is dislike of this wonderful book an option. By the time Daniel Kahneman reassures the reader that the results of the various priming studies he has just been discussing are neither made up nor statistical flukes - and that "disbelief is not an option" - I was more than ready to take this as an avuncular and not an inquisitorial admonition. There is a warmth in the writing, and not only from scholarly passion for the subject. As well as being a masterly exploration of a fascinating part of human nature, this book is a tribute to a remarkable collaboration with Amos Tversky, and dedicated to his memory. That his name does not appear in the formal acknowledgements at the end of the book is no oversight: his spirit infuses the text, surfacing every so often in the plural subject "Amos and I" as Kahneman describes with relish some piece of scientific research they conducted together.
In a book that exposes errors we often don't realize we're making, it is fitting that the author himself fesses up. Kahneman admits that early in his career, like many psychologists, he was often guilty of choosing samples that were too small, getting results that made no sense and which - it eventually dawned on him - were actually artifacts of his research method: "My mistake was particularly embarrassing because I taught statistics and knew how to compute the sample size that would reduce the risk of failure". He learned to be wary of intuition and tradition, and, unlike most psychologists, went on to collect a Nobel prize, for work done with Tversky on judgment under uncertainty and prospect theory (published in two widely cited papers that are reproduced as appendixes).
Truly random errors can't be predicted, of course. The human mind, however, is somewhat more accommodating to scientific study in that it distorts reality in systematic ways, and these errors - or biases - "recur predictably in particular circumstances". A recurrent theme of the book centres on one particularly strong bias, towards causal explanations and away from statistical analysis. People "are prone to apply causal thinking inappropriately, to situations that require statistical reasoning". One clue to this tendency is that while even children are good intuitive grammarians, pretty much all adults (including professional statisticians) are poor intuitive statisticians. We prefer stories to sets of data, agency over chance, and we care more about coherence than either the quantity or quality of the data on which the story is based.
For someone who warns us to beware of stories, Kahneman's is a compelling narrative, at the heart of which are two characters who in turn entertain and exasperate, who sometimes work well together and who are sometimes in conflict, but without whom we would not be human. They go by the prosaic labels System 1 and System 2 and are vital for understanding how we make judgements and decisions.
In brief, the automatic System 1 and the effortful System 2 "respectively produce fast and slow thinking". System 1 is brilliant at identifying causal connections between events, while System 2, your conscious self, is the part of the mind that can concentrate on thinking a problem through. System 1 is always on, generating "intuitive feelings and opinions about almost everything that comes your way", and while it is never stumped it is "gullible and biased to believe". Given these aspects of System 1's character, the "laziness of System 2 is an important fact of life": System 2 ("in charge of doubting and unbelieving") could step in to stop you jumping to an unwarranted conclusion. It often fails to intervene, however, because it's often terribly busy and finds it hard to multitask. Besides, following "our intuitions is more natural, and somehow more pleasant, than acting against them". As for attitudes, "System 2 is more of an apologist for the emotions of System 1 than a critic of those emotions - an endorser rather than an enforcer".
"The measure of success for System 1 is the coherence of the story it manages to create. The amount and quality of the data on which the story is based are largely irrelevant. When information is scarce, which is a common occurrence, System 1 operates as a machine for jumping to conclusions."
My guess is that regression to the mean has not set many pulses racing (examinations apart), and yet it provided Kahneman with "one of the most satisfying eureka experiences" of his career, when he "stumbled onto a significant fact of the human condition: the feedback to which life exposes us is perverse. Because we tend to be nice to other people when they please us and nasty when they do not, we are statistically punished for being nice and rewarded for being nasty." Performance varies, and the chance element will both regress to the mean and be ignored: a golfer who has a good first day in a competition is likely to do less well on the second (despite all the praise), and a golfer who has a bad first day is likely to improve (despite all the flak). Most spectators and commentators ignore statistics and rely on intuition to predict the scores on the second day, and as a result will "tend to be overconfident and overly extreme". It goes without saying that golf tournaments are not the only situations when intuitive predictions "need to be corrected because they are not regressive and therefore are biased".
This book will be of interest to anyone who has woken up this morning, and is therefore experiencing, first hand, the push and pull of fast and slow thinking. Psychologists, however, should be warned about a potentially demoralizing conclusion: despite Kahneman's evident enthusiasm for his subject, it seems "that teaching psychology is mostly a waste of time". Reading this book most certainly isn't, although I do have a couple of further health warnings regarding this review: (a) I haven't quite finished reading the whole book and (b) I've just begun a chapter entitled "The Illusion of Understanding"...
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will change the way you think about decision-making,
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.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What you need to know when making decisions,
This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Hardcover)Daniel Kahneman will be familiar to practically all readers interested in detrimental effects or tricks our brain plays when we make decisions, and to people interested in psychology or behavioural economics more generally. Together with Amos Tversky, it is fair to say that he was one of the founders of the field and the earlier books, such as Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases and Choices, Values, and Frames are rightfully regarded as being classics in decision research.
With his latest book he summarizes most of the research effort in the area over the past 40 years, drawing heavily on own work but by no means excluding significant contributions from other notable researchers. In a way one could call this the 'if you only read one book on decision making, make sure it is this one' summary.
For the businessperson or a layman generally interested in the topic, it will provide the whole spectrum of effects to be aware of, when making assessments on how one's (or somebody elses) conclusions could be biased, and the processes (evolutionary and otherwise) behind such a functioning / conditioning of our brains. Having been a leading figure in the field for four decades, Kahneman has had a lot of his concepts reach the buzzword stage by now and it is certainly worthwhile to let the author himself explain again the 'science' and logic behind them.
It is a great book to give to junior researchers or analysts as a starting point, sort of a guide to the mistakes they will inevitably make and how to minimize their effects. In that sense it perfectly complements Hubbard's How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business as induction material in both of the fields mentioned above (Paulos' Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences being another solid primer).
But even for an experienced researcher, or someone who has read a large portion of what went on before in the field, including the main body of the author's work, the book will be a gem. First of all, the book pulls everything together (including a reprint of the original 'Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases' article from Science Magazine) and provides you with a much quicker way of getting to know about all the recent developments on the topic than a thorough literature research would do (of course it is not a replacement for it, if you are writing an academic publication). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the author is a wonderful story teller and the writing will truly draw you in - the book is a real pleasure to read.
On top, his vast breadth of research distinguishes the book from some other recent, more 'pop type' efforts on behavioral economics in the way that there is not a whole book to fit into a specific, strongly delineated 'theory' or framework (a sort of 'interpretation of the day' and probably the only quick and dirty way someone without the patience and stamina needed to produce a work of this calibre has in order to make it big quickly), which would make it appear forced at times.
I cannot recommend the book warmly enough and even if you have little time in your busy schedule and the book comes in at over 400 pages, it really is worth your while (as well as pleasurable) reading it from cover to cover.
49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A huge mass of information about the brain and its psychology,
The central thesis of the book is that we humans are almost two separate entities. One side of us is instinctive, impulsive and relies on making fast judgements and quick impressions. The other side of us is more deliberate and allows us to (sometimes) overrule this more gutsy side of us. Throughout the book, Kahneman provides study after study after study to illustrate these two side of the mind.
Unfortunately, I found the book more long-winded and meandering than I would have liked. Kahneman provides lots and lots of examples, but sometimes goes into too much detail or swamps us with too much information. Occasionally, for example, the book comes across slightly more as a memoir that would be interesting for him to have written rather than a book that is aimed at educating and entertaining a wide readership.
In addition, Kahneman may be a highly decorated scientist, but he's not a natural writer. He assembles sentences with clauses and sub-clauses that sometimes hamper their comprehension. That doesn't mean that I didn't understand the book, but I did sometimes have to read sentences several times to get precisely the point that he was making.
For content, this book cannot be beaten. There's a huge amount in this hefty book. But the fact that it is so comprehensive made it (for me) a less enjoyable read. In trying to squeeze absolutely everything about the brain and mind into one book, I felt that there was too much to take in. Taking some of the content OUT to make the book more focused would have made it a more enjoyable read in my personal opinion.
Other psychologists have covered similar ground in an easier-to-read fashion, including Richard Wiseman 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot, Rob Yeung I is for Influence: The new science of persuasion: Mastering the Art of Influence, Daniel Pink Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and Daniel Nettle Personality: What makes you the way you are.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and important,
Apart from being an engaging and interesting read it is filled with little insights that will help you think more clearly an spot the flaws in a plan that others might have missed. Of course, that might not make you very popular at work, but at least you'll be able to back up your argument about whey everyone else is wrong by quoting a Nobel Laureate.
If you like Dan Ariely's work you must read this - Kahneman is where it all began. The book is slightly denser than Ariely but not in any way a hard read and he is an engaging author and very generous with his praise of other writers and thinkers. Peppered with memorable stories and case studies - my favourite is the one about the study of a parole board that showed that overall the chance of being granted payroll was 35% but if your case came up just after the Board had eaten that went up to 60% but if it was just before they broke for lunch it was 0%. The impact of blood-sugar levels on the brain - when its energised it can think and weigh evidence, when it's depleted it reverts to the easiest option, which in a parole decision is "no" because its the safest one. But then, as he shows later, the fact that the brain is able to weigh evidence and make seeming sound decision doesn't mean that it will be the right decision because there are all sorts of things the we either ignore or give undue weight to - think about the way that we all know that the "base line" chance of any new business surviving is about 1 in 5 but we'er all convinced that our new idea will be the 1 in five.
I could go on about this book - I frequently do. In short - read it - it is the is the most genuinely brilliant book I've read in years.
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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Hardcover - 3 Nov 2011)
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