Thinking, Fast and Slow

Although it was originally released in 2011, as of July 2014 Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was still listed in the top ten business bestsellers on The New York Times bestseller list. Kahneman was a Nobel Prize winner in economics and in his hit business book somewhat summarizes the important research he did throughout his career.

The first section of the book describes two different ways in which the human brain forms thoughts. System one is a fast, automatic, subconscious, and highly emotional type of thought. System two is a slow, calculating, conscious, and infrequent type of thought. Kahneman explains the differing outcomes from these two types of thought and how they can generate different outputs even with the same input. System two would be critical thinking, philosophic thought, and other deliberate types of thought. System one would be the constant thoughts that flood your brain every day in the course of just existing normally. In some cases, the impressions that system one generates lead to system two thought.

Next, the book deals with inherent biases in human thinking. He talks about the ways in which we can be unknowingly manipulated by our surroundings. He discusses the flaws in the ways that system one and system two interact and in how system one and two pass information back and forth.

One example of this is in the way that people think about statistics. For instance, we tend to exaggerate the consistency and coherence of our observations, so we draw conclusions that we think are solid, but are in fact not statistically sound. That means that incorrect system one processes lead to incorrect system two conclusions.

Kahneman’s provocative book makes us think about thinking, and the results are enlightening. He shows us, with ample evidence based on years of thorough research that, no matter what common sense dictates, we may not be as rational as we think. Although he doesn’t go into too much detail about the political and business implications of this, there clearly are implications that any astute reader can draw – if only you think about it.