Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Image result for thinking fast and slow Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was unlike any other book that I have ever read. It was interactive at some points and really caused me to stop and think about my own ways of thinking. The book is split into five parts. Part one introduces two systems (referred to as system 1 and system 2 in the book) that Kahneman feels are responsible for all the decisions made by a person. He attributes certain characteristics to each of these systems and explains how they shape our decision-making process. System 1, also referred to in the lecture as fast thinking, operates quickly and impulsively. It requires little effort and we have little control over its function. It is the reason you can detect hostility in someone’s voice, know that 2+2= 4, or finish common phrases such as “you can’t judge a book by its….”. System two, referred to in the lecture as slow thinking, is more deliberate and requires an increased mental effort. Its involved in things such as counting the occurrences of the letter a in this post or focusing on the voice of a particular person in a crowded and noisy room. 

    Part 2 focuses on heuristics (patterns of thought, or “mental shortcuts”) and biases. This chapter talks about things such as the anchoring effect, the availability heuristic (how personal experience and salience affects judgment). It also covers patterns of thinking that deal with how we perceive others and tries to explain why it is difficult for us to think statistically. Part 3 focuses on how to form ideas and ways of thinking to make sense of the world around us. It talks about the flaws we have when it comes to “going with our gut” and how we cope with the ideas of “risk” and “luck”. Part 4 deals with how we make choices when it comes to financial or economic endeavors, and how fast and slow thinking shape those choices. The final part brings up the idea of our “two selves” consisting of our experiencing self and our remembering self. It mostly deals with how memory or recollection of things can be influenced by a number of factors.

    There was a number of different sections and topics I enjoyed about the book so it was hard to pin down one that stood out to me. I would say the most memorable part of the book for me was when this question was asked. We were asked to not solve it, but rather let our intuition take over. The question was…

A bat and ball cost $1.10.
The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

This question made the idea of system 1 very prevalent to me. My brain instantly jumped to the first answer that made some kind of sense. After reading the correct answer (5¢) I could almost feel system 2 taking over to make sense of it all. The book describes system 2 as “lazy” since it is only really called into action when system 1 needs assistance. This was explained in the first lecture on the ways of thinking. It explained that slow thinking (system 2, critical thinking, etc.) is not the natural state of affairs. It requires work, and a fair amount of mental exertion to perform. Try to watch the following video and count the number of passes made by the team wearing white.

The first time I saw that video I was shocked that I could miss something like that. It was pretty upsetting how the human brain can miss things like that.
    Many of the heuristics cause us to fall into a particular way of thinking that is not well thought out or well developed. It could cause us to make snap decisions that might make sense at the time, but ultimately leave us with a less than desirable outcome. It is important that we understand these ways of thinking so we do not fall prey to them. Many others who are well aware of these heuristics arm themselves with them to use them against us. Take this marketing website for example.

While many of the people employing these heuristics might not have cruel intentions, some might. Because of this, it is important to recognize the patterns of thinking that we as humans are susceptible to, that way we can work towards developing critical thinking in all the aspects of our lives.

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