Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman


“This book presents my current understanding of judgment and decision making . . .” writes Daniel Kahneman in his introduction to Thinking, Fast and Slow.  I chose this book to read next among non-fiction choices since it fits well with my role as a teacher and as chair of my college’s strategic planning group.  After reading the first chapter I think I have made a good choice.  I think I’ll be able to adapt some of his ideas and encourage students to use their effortful decision process over their automatic decision process.

Kahneman describes two systems that help you make decision and act.  The automatic decision system (System 1) is automatic.  It is quick with little or no voluntary control.  You cannot stop yourself from judging emotions from a picture.  You cannot stop yourself from reading a word written in a language you read.  This system is always going- even if you do not want it’s conflict as in some of the cases described below.  Kahneman promises to show us later that ths system does not understand logic or statistics and sometimes answers an easier question than asked.

The effortful decision system (System 2) is deliberate, effortful, orderly and taxes working memory.  This system takes charge when system 1 is unsure how to proceed. 

Generally this system works well.  Kahneman lists some examples of trouble the two systems have interacting, however.  He describes the video The Invisible Gorilla in which when system 2 is engaged in counting someone watching a video can fail to notice a gorilla enter the scene.  So, people can be blinded by using system 2 and may not even know they were blinded.  Also, optical illusions work because system 1 continues to see the wrong thing even after system 2 knows the illusion to be false.  The interference of system 1 can slow down a task.  For instance if color words are shown and you are asked to say the color in which they are written then system 1’s reading of the words slows things down. 

A positive and practical interference between system 1 and system 2 is the use of self-control.  You know not to punch someone or call him an indiot in most circumstances even though system 1 calls for it.

I am through Chapter 1 and will probably update with another blog post every couple chapters.

One comment

  1. I recently read this book and I have to say that it is pretty interesting how this man describe the way we think day by day, but to be honest, I never understood what is the meaning of the question about baseball and the ball, how he get that answer, when mathematically speaking, 10 cents it is correct answer and 5 cents it is an fictive answer…

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