Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

I just finished reading Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kanheman.  I cannot recall a book that was so thought-provoking.  Kahneman puts you inside the human mind by describing how people think, discussing two systems of thought, heuristics and biases, overconfidence, choices, and our two selves.  After reading and tweeting about this book, I was left with thoughts flowing through my head about this book, which were mainly positive.  However, not all of these thoughts were.  I will go through my main compliments and criticisms in the paragraphs to follow.

First and foremost, the book brings does a phenomenal job of taking things that we may notice in everyday life, and expanding upon them, how and why it happens.  This is seen from the beginning with the discussion about System 1 and System 2.  System 1 is basically one’s initial thoughts to something, while System 2 is what analyzes it (if this is done at all).  In Theory of Knowledge terms, System 1 is someone’s immediate perception to an event or question, while System 2 is the reasoning that the person does to analyze the situation.  This was related in the book to one’s initial reaction when seeing an optical illusion, such as comparing the lengths of the lines in the Muller-Lyer illusion (System 1).  This got me thinking about all the times I think with System 1 or System 2, and I have considered it frequently since I read that section of the book.  Once you read something like this, you will never forget it.  Kahneman applies the system to an extremely wide variety of scenarios, to further teach the reader.  It is interesting how he points out human flaws that we all have with our two Systems.

I thought Kahneman went about presenting the information in a rather intriguing way.  He introduced new concepts that I had never before heard of.  In other cases, he gave names for different effects that I knew existed.  For example, he discussed the halo effect.  I always recognized the way people saw different presidential candidates.  Once they have that initial idea about a candidate, they cannot change the light in which they see him or her- it is like they are only operating on their System 1.  If they were to use System 2 and use reason in addition to their perception, they might be able to change their mind.  By discussing this effect, Kahneman describes a large portion of people, and allows the reader to understand why the world works in the way that it does.

My final main compliment is that I often did not agree with the statements in the book.  However, Kahneman did a terrific job of supplying examples of how something worked. He showed his expertise by showing his depth and breadth of knowledge about psychology.

I do not have many criticisms, however anyone reading this should be aware that this book is quite long.  While this is generally fine, it could be considered a problem because at times it seems that Kahneman got excessively repetitive, even for simple topics like the two Systems.  This was an issue because it was an easy topic to understand, and bombarding the reader with examples eventually became pointless.

Overall, this was a great book.  It made me feel a great deal more intelligent after reading it, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are interested in psychology or not.  I think that  this book includes many ToK-related topics, and a ton of information that should be common knowledge.  If everyone read this book, society as a whole would be smarter.


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