Book Review: “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

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Roll Models KahnemanIt’s Thursday, and you all know what that means…Scott Drotar Literary Review Day! This week I am discussing a book I read a couple of months ago, but it has left a lasting impression on me, so I think it is worth presenting to you. This is one of those masterpieces that gets cited in nearly every book in its field after its publication. It is truly a treasure trove of information in the fields of psychology and decision making. This week I present Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

In this text, the author lays out for you the two routes that your brain uses to make decisions. The first method is the fast, reactionary way that accounts for most of the decisions you make throughout your life (think of it like “autopilot”). The other method is the slow, rational approach that you have more control over, and you think makes most of your decisions. These two routes work simultaneously and play off of each other in every decision you make. He discusses the various ways that having these two competing pathways is both a blessing and a curse. For example, your quick, instinctual reaction to the sound of a gunshot is great, and possibly life saving most of the time, but if you are at a track meet you will look pretty silly if you duck and cover. Your slower, more critical mental pathway allows you to avoid this embarrassment by putting things in context. He goes into great detail in informing you about what situations are best suited to each method, as well as ways that you can avoid using the wrong method to make a decision. Literally nothing is left uncovered in his explanations of the decision making process, and after you read it you will see decision making in a whole new light.

As a psychologist, I love this book, but I will tell you that it is pretty technical and dense at times. His writing is very smooth and accessible to the average reader, but he does get into some advanced topics. He gets into abstract concepts in cognitive psychology, decision theory, and even Bayesian statistics. Although you may not fully understand his explanations of why or how certain things happen, you will still be able to grasp the general notion of all of the ideas he discusses. Numerous examples and studies are mentioned throughout the text to illustrate the point he is making. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in decision theory, even if some of it is a bit technical for the armchair psychologist. That is why “Thinking, Fast and Slow” gets a 4 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.


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