Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was pointed to this book after I'd torn apart another piece of self-improvement rubbish. Unlike those self-improvement gurus, Kahnemann has a Nobel Prize to his credit so he deserves some respect, and this book is a summary of his life in psychology. So while there's little here for the hopeless business manager - though some of that does come through in the second half - it's a fascinating summary of a life's work that began as a Jewish child in wartime Paris, when he was picked up and hugged by a homesick SS man and walked home wondering how the human mind can harbour such contradictions.

Central to the book is the discovery of what Kahnemann calls Systems 1&2, which are respectively the thinking fast and slow thought processes of the title. Kahnemann takes us through the ways in which easy thought processes can mislead us, while covering the ways in which we delude ourselves or are open to suggestion, giving an insight how the likes of Derren Brown make a living.

Why do stockbrokers perform no better than monkeys throwing darts? Why do people perform better after their bosses have shouted at them? (It's not why the bosses think.) Why do students who have been exposed to words like 'grey' and 'wrinkled' walk slowly? Why do people exposed to images of money behave selfishly?

At times it's hard going, but Kahnemann is trying to summarise the most recent developments in a notoriously difficult science. For the careful - and slow - reader, this is a wonderful book.

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