Good Books: Thinking Fast & Slow
Posted by Gail | Filed under Gail Pleasures
I’m mad about books. I’m mad about brains. So this book on brains got me. It’s a long’un folks, I will not lie. And there are some spots I was less than fully engrossed. But the premise of the book and all the research experiments used to illustrate the points – frickin’ fascinating.
Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow divides thought processes between System 1 and System 2. System 1 is automatic – the default processor – using intuition, association, metaphors and impressions to make decisions. You can’t turn it off. And as Kahneman says, it is the “secret author of many of the choices and judgments you make.” System 2 is deliberate and requires huge amounts of effort. And it’s slow. No back-ground decision-making here; system 2 requires attention. Kahneman says it is “the conscious being you call ‘I’.” But he also says it isn’t YOU, since you are ore profoundly affected by System 1, which you may not even notice is pulling your strings.
Kahneman and his partner in crime, Amos Tversky (who died in 1996 and to whom the book is dedicated) conducted thousands of experiments, which demonstrated that while we think we know what’s going on and that we are in charge, we’re not. Randomness rules. And we are pathetic at statistical analysis but always willing to see brilliance where none exists.
We think we’re smart. Even Kahneman admits his own inability to counter some of System 1’s effects. But we’re hopelessly subject to the “focusing illusion”, “duration neglect” and the “peak-end rule”. We can be “anchored” by our environment and we are blind to what we do not expect to see. (Look here if you want more on this: http://theinvisiblegorilla.com/videos.html)
We’re susceptible to being puppetted by features of our surroundings in ways would never imagine. In one (pre-cellphone) experiment, each time a person came out of a phone booth after having made a call, an accident was staged. A person dropped all her papers in the collision. For some callers, a dime had been left in the booth, giving them a free call; for others, no dime. If there was no dime in the phone booth, only 4% of the exiting callers helped to pick up the papers. If there was a dime, at least 88% stopped to help. Callers felt the need to pay forward the “free dime” they’d been gifted in the phone booth. Wow!
This book is one of the best I have read, one of the broadest and deepest in terms of the knowledge it imparts. I’ve always believed that knowledge of how we think will help us to better understand ourselves and deepen our personal wisdom. I’ve been in love with brains for years, reading everything I can get my hands on. This book is like a gold mine: nuggets everywhere.