“Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman: Part One

This book has had a huge impact on my pursuit of knowledge about cognitive psychology. I’ve found that Kahneman is probably the most cited author and researcher amongst similar books (See “Predictably Irrational”, “Incognito”, “The Power of Habit”, “What’s Going on in There”, NurtureShock”, “Autopilot” and “The Organized Mind”. Kahneman points out that there are essentially two systems in the brain. The fast system reacts quickly to the environment and is responsible for quick reaction and snap judgments. This part of the brain relies heavily on past experiences to create a biased picture of what it thinks it is perceiving. The second, slower system, is responsible for more complex and developed thoughts. The “slow” system does much of its processing in the background.

  1. Why be concerned with gossip? Because it is much easier, as well as far more enjoyable, to identify and label the mistakes of others than to recognize our own. Questioning what we believe and want is difficult at the best of times, and especially difficult when we most need to do it, but we can benefit from the informed opinions of others.
  2. We observed systematic biases in our own decisions, intuitive preferences that consistently violated the rules of rational choice.
  3. Most of us are pitch-perfect in detecting anger in the first word of a telephone call, recognize as we enter a room that we were the subject of the conversation, and quickly react to subtle signs that the driver of the car in the next lane is dangerous.
  4. Valid intuitions develop when experts have learned to recognize familiar elements in a new situation and to act in a manner that is appropriate to it.
  5. System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.
  6. System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.
  7. You can do several things at once, but only if they are easy and undemanding.
  8. Everyone has some awareness of the limited capacity of attention, and our social behavior makes allowances for these limitations.
  9. As we shall see, it sometimes answers easier questions than the one it was asked, and it has little understanding of logic and statistics. One further limitation of System 1 is that is cannot be turned off.
  10. With two striking pictures of the same good-looking woman, who somehow appears much more attractive in one than in the other. There is only one difference: the pupils of the eyes appear dilated in the attractive picture and constricted in the other.
  11. People who experience flow describe it as “a state of effortless concentration so deep that they lose their sense of time, of themselves, of their problems,” and their descriptions of joy of that state are so compelling that Scikszentmihalyi has called it an “optimal experience.”
  12. People who are cognitively busy are also more likely to make selfish choices, use sexist language, and make superficial judgments in social situations.
  13. After exerting self-control in one task, you do not feel like making an effort in another, although you could do it if you really had to.
  14. It suggests that when people believe a conclusion is true, they are also very likely to believe arguments that appear to support it, even when these arguments are unsound. If System 1 is involved, the conclusion comes first and the arguments follow.
  15. Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.
  16. Jumping to conclusions is efficient if the conclusions are likely to be correct and the costs of an occasional mistake acceptable, and if the jump saves much time and effort, Jumping to conclusions is risky when the situation is unfamiliar, the stakes are high, and there is no time to collect more information.
  17. Contrary to the rules of philosophers of science, who advise testing hypotheses by trying to refute them, people (and scientists, quite often) seek data that are likely to be compatible with the beliefs they currently hold.
  18. It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.
  19. The questions are addressed to System 2, which will direct attention and search memory to find the answers. System 2 receives questions or generates them: in either case it directs attention and searches memory to find the answers. System 1 operates differently. It continuously monitors what is going on outside and inside the mind, and continuously generates assessments of various aspects of the situation without specific intention and with little or no effort. These base assessments play an important role in intuitive judgment, because they are easily substituted for more difficult questions—this is the essential idea of the heuristics and biases approach. Two other features of System 1 also support the substitution of one judgment for another. One is the ability to translate values across dimensions, which you do in answering a question that most people find easy.
  20. People judge competence by combining the two dimensions of strength and trustworthiness.
  21. The target question is the assessment you intend to produce. The heuristic question is the simpler question that you answered instead.
  22. The technical definition of heuristic is a simple procedure that helps find adequate, though often imperfect, answers to difficult questions. The word comes from the same root as eureka.
  23. Unless the message is immediately negated, the associations that it evokes will spread as if the message were true. System 2 is capable of doubt, because it can maintain incompatible possibilities at the same time. However, sustaining doubt is harder work than sliding into certainty.
  24. The “fact” that players occasionally acquire a hot hand is generally accepted by players, coaches, and fans. The interference is irresistible: a player sinks three or four baskets in a row and you cannot help forming the causal judgment that this player is now hot, with a temporarily increased propensity to score. Players on both teams adapt to this judgment.
  25. Anchoring effect: It occurs when people consider a particular value for an unknown quantity before estimating that quantity.
  26. Any number that you are asked to consider as a possible solution to an estimation problem will induce the anchoring effect.
  27. The explanation is a simple availability bias: both spouses remember their own individual efforts and contributions much more clearly than those of the other, and the difference in availability leads to a difference in judged frequency. The bias is not necessarily self-serving.
  28. The lesson is clear: estimates of causes of death are warped by media coverage. The coverage is itself biased toward novelty and poignancy.
  29. The affect heuristic simplifies our lives by creating a world that is much tidier than reality. Good technologies have few costs in the imaginary world we inhabit, bad technologies have no benefits, and all decisions are easy. In the real world, of course, we often face painful tradeoffs between benefits and costs.
  30. Human beings have invented the concept of “risk” to help them understand and cope with the dangers and uncertainties of life. Although these dangers are real, there is not such thing as “real risk” or “objective risk”.

Thinking, Fast and Slow


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