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Risk Savvy: How To Make Good Decisions Paperback – 17 Apr 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Paperback, 17 Apr 2014
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (17 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846144744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846144745
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

GERD GIGERENZER is director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, and lectures around the world on the importance of risk education for everyone from children to prominent doctors, bankers, and politicians. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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We don't understand risk very well is one of Gigerenzer's central theses. Another is that in situations of uncertainty simple rules are better than complex ones we can't understand. - or that would be fine if only we had far more information. (So, for example invest your money by splitting it equally between a number of investments I'd different kind. Or keep leverage to 10 per cent.) a third thesis is that in decision taking and leadership, we should trust our gut instincts. A fourth is that our fear instincts are geared to our evolutionary past with their focus on things like spiders and 'dread events' where a lot of oeople die at the same time such as 9/11.

This is all persuasive and I learned a good deal from this book. That relates particularly to understanding risk and the role that presentation through natural frequencies and 'icon boxes' and the like can play. The book is also excellent as a guide to understanding medical risks.

If I didn't find it griping throughout, I think there are two main reasons. First it's a bit repetitive, especially when it comes to the North American healthcare system and its shortcomings. Secondly it's a bit optimistic about the impacts of education in risk understanding and in catching students young - pre adolescence. I just can't believe thus will turn out to be, for example, a way to stop young people texting and driving, as Gigerenzer hopes...
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It's obvious, isn't it, that the more we know the better our inferences will be? No, says Gerd Gigerenzer, it doesn't always follow. What we take to be knowledge is usually limited to the conscious variety. We are unaware of the vast reservoir of unconscious knowledge which we can access, and which is the source of gut feelings and intuitions.
Successful managers base all their decisions on reason, or so we have been led to believe. Wrong again, says Gigerenzer. Although they are reluctant to admit it, the higher up the hierarchy managers are the more likely they are to rely on gut feelings.
So why do many of us make bad decisions? Because we have not been educated to understand risk. We are unable to distinguish between between known calculable risks and uncertainty. We are very uncomfortable with uncertainty, preferring to accept the illusion of certainty offered to us by people in authority. The hunger for certainty is what prevents us from being risk savvy.
Heuristics are smart rules of thumb which can simplify decision making. They can be safer and more accurate than a calculation, yet are frowned upon by many. This book gives examples of heuristics ranging from the gaze heuristic of pilots to the aspiration rule which can prevent us wasting time and feeling restless and dissatisfied when shopping.
This is a book which encourages us to take more control of our lives. It allows us to see when we are being offered second or third best solutions because someone feels it necessary to engage in defensive decision making. Although it does contain repetition, it is a book well worth the time taken to read it.
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Understanding and dealing with risk is essential in almost every aspect of the modern world; medicine, transportation, education, public policy, even game shows. Most of us do pretty badly at it; despite the fact that you’re more likely to die driving 12 miles than flying from New York to Washington, we feel more worried in the airplane than on the drive to the airport. The response of policymakers has been to argue the need for experts to save us from our biases. Risk Savvy disagrees: what we need, Gigerenzer argues, is risk education. Understanding probabilities is something that can be learned, and must be if we are to function in the world.

Gerd Gigerenzer is best known for his work arguing that though it’s easy to criticize instinct and human decision making as being biased and flawed, in reality those biases actually work better than being unbiased would in the majority of situations. We aren’t broken, leaky beta versions; rather, we operate with a well-designed and effective ‘adaptive toolbox’ one that allows us to successfully navigate a wide variety of situations with considerable success and a minimum of effort.

Gigerenzer is a top academic doing very interesting work in psychology, and I think his academic work makes some great reading. Unfortunately, this book is not that. He’s oversimplified his work, and as a result it often feels like a linear combination of other pop behavioural economics books, rather than a new addition to the field. He has some great examples of his points and some great stories, but nothing new to add to them. Still, some of the facts are really good.
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Format: Paperback
There's a view of human nature that we are irrational slaves of our appetites, creatures who need to be nudged into better behaviour and who would benefit from a benign paternalism. In this important and accessible book, Gerd Gigerenzer argues against this view by shifting the focus from "individual stupidity" to "the phenomenon of a risk-illiterate society." Gigerenzer distils a great deal of scholarship to show how we can all become more risk literate and what a difference that might make in the modern world.

Whenever presented with a bald probability, say, a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow, we should always ask, 30 percent of what? Time? Geographical area? The number of weather forecasters? The absence of a reference class creates a confusion that's not just limited to rain, "but occurs whenever a probability is attached to a single event." One way out of this muddle is to use frequency statements that make the reference class clear ("it will rain on 30 percent of the days for which this announcement is made"). Gigerenzer calls these "mind tools" and he shows how relatively easy they are to learn and apply. (For more thinking tools, see Daniel Dennett's Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.)

Being confused by a weather forecaster is one thing, but what if your doctor doesn't understand Bayesian inference? In one study, Gigerenzer switched from conditional probabilities to natural frequencies and discovered that how the information was presented was critical to accuracy. If you're a woman whose mammography screening is positive, there's a difference between being told you've got a 9 or a 90 percent chance of having breast cancer.
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