(NOTE: I first posted this short review of Daniel Kahneman’s monumental book on how we think and the ways in which our minds work on December 1, 2013, as part of an essay on several recently-completed books. Since then I’ve wanted to link to this specific review on multiple occasions. To make that easier, I’m pulling it out and reposting it here alone. I learn so much every time I open Kahneman’s work. As I said in the initial review, “Just read the book — you’ll thank me for it later.”)
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. In the late summer/early fall, I began this amazing 2011 book by psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow takes Kahneman’s groundbreaking research over several decades and brings it together in this tour of how our minds work.
There is so much here to absorb that it is impossible to do this book justice in a couple of paragraphs. Kahneman begins by explaining our two systems for thinking — one fast, highly intuitive, and emotional, and the other slower and more logical. Of course we use the first system for most of our decisions, and Kahneman demonstrates again and again how our unwillingness to push ourselves to the more systematic — but harder — system of thinking drives bad decisions. As just one example, he shows how when faced with a difficult question, we’ll often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.
Yet another section of the book explores “our confidence in what we believe we know, and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance and the uncertainty of the world we live in. We are prone to overestimate how much we understand about the world and to underestimate the role of chance in events. Overconfidence is fed by the illusory certainty of hindsight.” In example after example and test after test, Kahneman explores this facet of the human condition.
There is so much here to challenge what you think you know. As the New York Times book review said, “It is an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently touching….”
Just read the book – you’ll thank me for it later.
More to come…