I don’t know what I think

The Guardian:

When I was about half way through Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, a meticulous and perturbing dissection of the ease with which our capacity for making judgements can be… well, perturbed, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder whether the expert psychologist had been canny enough to write his book in such a way as to fool me into thinking that it is brilliant.

I guess that is a mark of the discombobulating nature of the text but tricksiness isn’t Kahneman’s style. Rather he combines an authoritative seriousness with a very human warmth to present a fascinating thesis and I’m almost 100% sure that this is an excellent book.

You don’t know what you think, is Kahneman’s message; and even when you have finished the book, you will struggle to keep your processing of the world on an even keel. Story after story in which judges are swayed by the roll of a die, or students of statistics struggle with even the most basic laws of probability in everyday scenarios, slowly unravel any confidence you might have in your ability to make well-reasoned decisions. The effect is mesmerising.

That said, it took me a while to get into Kahneman’s psychological groove. For the first hundred pages or so I waded through a series of psychological investigations based on hypothetical questions or gambles that I couldn’t quite connect with my own experiences. I was also frustrated that the author often omitted to mention of the sizes of the effects that were observed in different studies. Psychology has a hard ride of late, suffering problems with reproducibility and fraud, and I guess I was looking for the reassurance of quantification.
But then I eased into it. Kahneman’s gentle but insistent wisdom, and the widening reach of the situations in which human judgements were found to be suspect, eventually overcame my reservations.

Read the whole story: The Guardian

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