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Thinking, Fast and Slow: Summary

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Thinking Fast and Slow is the international bestseller by behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman. The book proposes that there are two methods of thought that Kahneman refers to as system 1 and system 2.

System 1 is rapid fire and helps us to make very quick decisions based on a myriad of previous experiences. It’s intuitive, associated and above all – it’s fast. The brain likes to chunk things together and so this can often be quite biassed and make judgements based on stereotypes or commonly held beliefs. System 1 encourages us to try to create meaning where there is none, extrapolating, often incorrectly from the smallest pieces of information. Because of this, we favour what we deem to be plausible over what is probable.

System 1 exists for one purpose – to keep us alive.  It is a very elegant system that has helped humans to survive for thousands of years. Your subconscious brain absorbs hundreds of thousands of stimuli every day – making hundreds of decisions and judgements. System 1 enables you to make these quickly without having to engage in the slower, deliberate and energy consuming System 2. However, due to the speed of calculation, System 1 judgements are based on biases in our thinking and our experiences of the world.  This means that we fall prey to mechanics such as confirmation bias, representativeness, correspondence bias, the halo effect, primacy, anchoring (heavily used in negotiations) and availability heuristics.

System 2 is slower, more logical and more accurate, but not immune to biases. In fact without deliberate and conscious effort, System 2 often ends up confirming the judgements of System 1. It’s too easy to be lazy and only work from the initial judgement that System 1 gives us (garbage in – garbage out).

The attentive System 2 is who we think we are.  System 2 articulates judgments and makes choices, but often endorses or rationalizes ideas and feelings that were generated by System 1

The book is based on Kahneman’s long career of research and observation. It’s chock full of information which requires reflection to understand fully. It’s my favourite smart thinking book and possibly the greatest psychology book written in the past 10 years. It’s not a book that can be easily summarised in only a few paragraphs; I highly advise you to check it out for yourself.

 

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