Thursday, July 21, 2022

Book Report: Thinking, Fast and Slow


    Thinking, Fast and Slow was an endless realm of topics that came down to judgment, reasoning, and how our brains operate when it comes to thinking. Written by Daniel Kahneman, it is broken into five parts, beginning with explaining System I and System II of the brain (a.k.a. not-so-complex versus complex). It is further revealed through studies and examples that each one of us is guilty of using heuristics, or rules-of-thumb, to help guide our judgment even though this may not be the ideal way to come up with solutions. Khaneman explains through a story of his researcher life, alongside his colleague Amos. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, he reveals that we as humans consistently use these heuristics, risk ourselves of errors, and evidently shy away from thinking “too hard”. 

Daniel Kahneman uses support from fellow researchers and psychologists with hints of mind-games for you to try yourself throughout the book to gain a clearer understanding of the topic introduced. He produces general findings as to how we come to conclusions of all sorts and how to avoid errors through overconfidence or illusions of validity. Thinking, Fast and Slow acknowledges how we got to the situation we are currently in and how counter systems conduct such events. Daniel Kahneman introduces gambles we play safe on, statistics we tend to avoid, and assumptions we make in order to validate our choices. 

Favorite Part

Personally, my favorite part of the book was chapter twenty-one, “Intuition vs. Formula”. For years growing up, we are all told to always trust our judgements and to never let anyone else tell you otherwise. However, Kahneman is going against this rule-of-thumb, telling us to not let it all rely on our intuitive judgment. He explains to not dismiss it either. I enjoyed how Kahneman in depth explained the contradicting side of what we are always told. While weighing your options, keep that initial thought in the back of your mind and decide whether or not that judgment is rational. This part of the book truly resonated with me due to the fact that there is no lack of truth behind it. It caused me to think. For example, when someone says "trust your gut" (intution) and your do without thinking about it, what if the outcome is negative? Or what you were thinking was negative causing a missed opportunity? What I had gathered from Kahneman with this statement was this: without reasoning and weighing in details and possibilities, you can simply leave yourself with either a missed chance or an avoidable mistake. With reference to Meehl’s “little book”, Kahneman conducted his own combat study that reduces the halo-effect on the initial judgment of recruits. I favored how Kahneman created a study based on questions of the individual’s life that related to favorable recruit characteristics without objectifying the physicality of the recruit. After revealing the study results months later, I was pleased to see that the method favoring logic and formula had greatly overcome previous methods that risked human error. This is similar to graphology, as discussed in class. These said “graphologists” can see a person before their handwriting and use their initial judgment to produce vague connotations about the individual, convincing them that they are these traits. Rather than using reasoning, individual’s trust the validity of a “professional” to tell them what they are. Graphology was known to be used to find the “ideal” employee based on their handwriting alone! This chapter and study has shown me that as humans we are very quick to judge because we believe to have it all figured out when that is not the case. When we apply formulas and statistics, we get shocking results. This is simply because life itself is not surface level, it goes beyond.

Try it yourself!

Click the link for a: How To: Conduct an “Interview”

Task: Imagine you are interviewing a potential employee for a construction company. Randomly pick a person after the questions are made. Now: (1) Look at these five traits: mathematical, dedicated, motivated, experienced with architectural designs/woodworking, and cautious. (2) Write down whether or not the person you chose is a good fit for a construction company; score them 1-50 (3) Come up with a question relating to each trait that has to do with potential employees background (4) Score each answer 1-10 and total it 

Was the random person a good fit before the questions?

Was the random person a good fit after the questions?

Was the scored number higher or lower than the before?

Did you make a human error before you used the formula? 


A strong, evident take away from the book that really pulled me in was initial human judgment and how easily susceptible we are to trusting “experts”. Throughout the class we have discussed psychics, mediums, and quick judgements we make without much thought. Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein introduce a question to readers of the book along with a conclusion to their findings. “When can you trust an experienced professional who claims to have an intuition?” (Kahneman 242). It all comes down to our systems and how quick System I is to judge, especially when stimulated in the correct environment. Rather than questioning how much experience the psychic must have or how does this “finding” they’re stating really apply to only me, we essentially “create coherence when there is none” (Kahneman 243). This is the same idea when we recall past things that have happened to us. What makes sense and supports our current environment or situation, we tend to accept those details of what is being recalled, whether it is altered or not. This coherence is special thanks to System I. It is quick, intuitive, and grasps onto things that just make sense to us without much thought. After all, if it makes sense then it must be right, right? Wrong! Psychics are known for mind games and are completely professional in making generalizable assumptions seem like they are tailored to us. Let’s take Noreen Renier for example. She used psychic abilities to find a missing man and described the scene exactly. Pretty amazing and she sure did gain a lot of eyes on her. However, if we use our logic (System II), we see it for what it is. The town was along a river, filled with stones. Yes, he was less than eight miles from the house like she had predicted. In fact, he was less than a mile…and found by a hunter a month later after her “correct” prediction of where he was. Like Gary Klein and Daneil Kahneman explain in the book, Renier had expert confidence, creating a convincing story of her so-called abilities. “This is why subjective confidence is not a good diagnostic of accuracy” (Kahneman 243). Our brains are wired to accept the easy answer and to say “I knew it!” when the conclusion is revealed. Kahneman mentions in the book that you never truly know. You can make predictions and when something happens state that you knew it would. Anyone can. The truth is, whether it is ourselves, a fortune-teller or a psychic, we never truly know the correct judgment in a situation until the final conclusion is reached.


It is clear that the findings of Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow, are applicable to how we view and interact with the world around us. We are constantly creating assumptions of those in a work-place, school, or even just driving along the road. It is hard to realize that sometimes we do need to stop and think and to not let our available judgements get the better of us. No one truly has it all figured out. Next time we are faced with a challenge, rather than jumping to the temporary fix, we begin to rationalize and weigh options that can be more beneficial for the long run of things. Kahneman dedicated a chapter to gambles we come across and how it is human nature to take what seems to be the easy way out. In reality, with slower thinking and statistical reasoning, it can be revealed that greater chances and opportunities are available. We are so prone to loss aversion that we rarely see the gains that could come from a time of loss. Kahneman made it clear that failure creates character and a lesson to be learned and that not everything will be perfectly placed into your path of life.

This link refers to Daniel Kahneman discussing the flaws of human judgment and reasoning.


Thinking, Fast and Slow allowed me to gain a better understanding of judgment and reasoning. It also allowed me to catch myself when creating human thought errors when I am at work or with friends. Each chapter of the book brought its own lesson to be learned and understood. It is not to be said that after reading this book you will never make a mistake or error judgment again, it is that you become more aware of why choices in your life are being made. Don't get me wrong, heuristics can be very resourceful for in-the-moment situations, but should not be used as an easy way out. The book by Daniel Kahneman is full of insightful claims supported through test examples you can try yourself and engaging studies he and colleagues have done over many years. Our thoughts are separated and sorted by two systems: System I and System II. The systems allow us to create reasoning to our judgments and provide support when going through situations that life may throw at us. It is all about your perspective and what you wish to do with the information handed to you. 

This is a bad case of duration neglect. You are giving the good and the bad part of your experience equal weight, although the good part lasted ten times as long as the other”(Kahneman 385).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kierstin, I haven't read "Thinking, Fast and Slow" but based on your post it sounds like a good read! I sometimes struggle with 'trusting my gut' because it's hard to distinguish a gut feeling from an anxious thought. Therefore, I found the author's perspective on this interesting to read about through your post.