Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman, Author
Daniel Kahneman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-0-374-27563-1
Reviewed on: 10/03/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of thought in this fascinating treatise by a giant in the field of decision research. Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman (Attention and Effort) posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1, he contends, makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so "lazy" and distractible that it usually defers to System 1. Kahneman uses this scheme to frame a scintillating discussion of his findings in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics, and of the ingenious experiments that tease out the irrational, self-contradictory logics that underlie our choices. We learn why we mistake statistical noise for coherent patterns; why the stock-picking of well-paid investment advisers and the prognostications of pundits are worthless; why businessmen tend to be both absurdly overconfident and unwisely risk-averse; and why memory affects decision making in counterintuitive ways. Kahneman's primer adds to recent challenges to economic orthodoxies about rational actors and efficient markets; more than that, it's a lucid, marvelously readable guide to spotting—and correcting—our biased misunderstandings of the world. Photos. (Nov.)
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