Title: Thinking, Fast and Slow
Author: Daniel Kahneman
Year: Published: 25/10/2011
Length: 418 pages
Genre: Psychology, Science, Nonfiction
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Short Description: One of the reasons we make bad decisions is our inability to understand why we have come to this specific conclusion. Daniel Kahneman provides us with extraordinarily detailed analyzes of the human brain that will help us find the positive and negative features of our thought process and eventually guide us towards making better choices in our every day lives.
In this book, Daniel Kahneman, the author sets out his opinion and understanding of the assessment of decision-making, which he forms after decades of psychological analysis. His main goal here, in this book, is to present to the world his vision of how the mind works by referring to the latest developments in cognitive and social psychology
Thinking, Fast and Slow is an amazing journey through the minds of humans, which will explain the two systems that guide our thinking. System one is fast, intuitive, and emotional. System two is slow, conscious, and logical.
As a conclusion I have come to the following: our mind uses two different systems to handle and analyze the things around us: fast and slow. The first is quick in conclusions, and can often be wrong. The second is slower but has a greater chance of finding the right solution. By constantly increasing your knowledge, you will help your fast mind make fewer mistakes and your slow one to act faster and make the right decisions.
To be honest, I expected a lot more from the book. Partly because of the positive feedback around the net and the first 100 pages. The authors start with a detailed explanation of how our brain works. When our fast thinking is triggered and when the slow one. Also, what are the consequences of the both. This did helped me a lot to understand my behavior and thoughts in certain situations. However, after that initial joy of helpful info things went downhill.
Daniel Kahneman shares a lot of information and research regarding our decision-making process and the means behind different human acts. Although some of the data is interesting and it can be actually implemented used in a real-life situation, most of the research is very specific and it will be probably only fancy a psychology professor.
If you are not a real maniac about a subject human behavior, you won’t quite enjoy the book. The firm and stiff language in places suggest that the book will be enjoyed mostly by people who are experts in the field.
I don’t want to completely deny you from reading the book, there is still a lot to be learned from it. I just don’t want you to lave with a wrong impression from the book.
Notes, thoughts, and essential takeaways that I want to remember from the book. My main goal is to leave you with curated content, to which you can easily return to in the future for reference, that’s also holding the main insights of the book without spoiling what the book is all about:
Practice gives us another point of view
We’ve all heard stories about the intuition of the expert: the grandmaster who walks along chess street players and announces that the “white will mate in three moves” without even stopping. Or, the car technician who can tell what’s the problem with your car by only hearing how the engine works, without even looking under the hood.
We often think that such people have something magical in them, that they were born with that intuition, however, the truth is far different.
These people owe their success to years of practice. They’ve spent a tremendous amount of time troubleshooting pretty much the same problems and observing the same things over and over again, which finally allowed them to spot an issue or a potential threat by just a quick look at a certain situation. In the book Mastery, by Robert Green, this process is described in details. According to Green, you need to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing on a particular subject till you’ve mastered it.
It’s pretty much like exercising. If you train every day, you will eventually become stronger, your body will change and you will be able to lift more heavy shit. The same happens when you practice something specific. Your point of view changes and you see things differently. You no longer need an hour to understand why something doesn’t work, you take a quick look and you know what’s the problem.
The main point here is this: you should not seek to become an expert in every aspect of your life, simply choose a specific subject and devote your life towards this. You will eventually become expert in the field, which will bring you joy and admirations from the people around you.
Thinking, Fast and Slow
This is the main concept of the book and the most valuable takeaway. According to the research the author made, there are two main systems that we use to think, and basically solve problems:
System 1 – The first system acts fast. It is more primitive from the two and its main objective is to take care of our survival. For example, if you’re walking on the street and suddenly a car turns towards your direction your mind needs to act fast in order to protect you and get you out alive from this situation. The brain will send impulses and will help us quickly move or even jump if necessary.
The downside of system one is that it often triggers when we need to make an important decision, or, for example, respond to people. The fast way of thinking usually is quick on making conclusions but in most of the cases such outcomes are wrong and have a potential to ruin your life in the long run. System one mostly relies on emotions. For example: let’s say you’re married but you’ve gone to a club without your wife. An attractive female is showing interest in you and you have a choice to make: your fast mind will immediately tell you that you should sleep with the girl. The reasons are many and all of them are only based on a superficial conclusion: she’s attractive; you have an easy prey; your primitive brain will tell you to mate because that’s in your blood.
System 2 – The slow way of thinking relies on logic. The main reason it’s slow, it’s because it takes time to process all the information and to search for similar experience in the owner’s brain. Slow thinking requires concentration and focus. This way of thinking is upset when attention is diverted. As the author explains in details: Slow thinking requires more mental capacity. We can easily say that system 2 is more important to our success. Writing a book or recording music requires complete concertation and your distraction will lead you to the beginning of the process. In other words, the more control and practice you have for your slow thinking, the more successful you will be in life. Slow thinking cannot be combined with other thought processes, and attempts will only de-focus you.
Let’s say we’re in the same situation, like the one above: you’re at a club and a beautiful woman is trying to take advantage of you. What will happen if we take a couple of minutes to think things through? Our logic thinking will kick in and tell you that you should immediately walk away. It will whisper in your ear that you have a wife and that you shouldn’t cheat on her. Even if your wife never knows about this night, you will know and this will make you miserable. Also, it’s not fair to cheat on your wife. So, go home buster.
Let system one work when the decision will not affect your future and turn to system two when important decisions have to be made.
Our Two Selves
Nature has put mankind under the power of two masters: pain and pleasure. And according to the research in the book, when we’re exposed to a short period of pain which abruptly stops, we’re more likely to remember this incident as a lot more painful if we rather experience pain over time which slowly decreases.
Or in other words, duration doesn’t count when we experience pain or pleasure. Only the peak (best or worst moment) and the end of the experience are registered in our brains.
There are two selves hiding inside of us: The experiencing self and the remembering self. The experiencing self, asks: “Does it and how much it hurts now?” The remembering self is the one answering the question: “How was the overall experience?” We rely on those two when we make decisions. However, the remembering self have the greater power when we’re making future decisions.
We remember a visit to the dentist as the worst thing in our lives, even though the average length of fixing a tooth is less than 5 minutes. Yet, we stay in toxic relationships for years.
This short example will give you a better perspective on how we remember things: A man was listening to a long symphony recorded on a disc, however, there was a scratch at the end of the disk and the end result was a shocking sound. The man mentions that the bad end has destroyed the whole experience. But in fact, the experience is not destroyed, but only the memory of it. The listener judges that the whole experience is bad because it ends badly but this assessment actually ignores the previous musical bliss.
Our remembering self is convincing us that certain situations, experiences, people are bad only because we had one bad moment, which can make us feel bad in a lot of occasions.
If You Can’t Solve a Difficult Task Find The Easy One Hiding Inside
Whether it’s in our job, at school or at home, we are constantly facing difficult tasks that require our attention. The solution often doesn’t seem so obvious we and spent a tremendous amount of time searching for the perfect answer.
The main reason we spend so much time troubleshooting a single task without finding the answer lays in our approach. “If you can’t solve a difficult task at once, start by solving an easy task first. You only need to find it hiding inside,” says Daniel Kahneman. This way of handling obstacles is part of the heuristic method, which is: an approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.
Replacing a difficult question with another, simpler one, is a good strategy for solving difficult tasks. Let’s look at the question below. These are difficult questions which will require quite a research before you can answer them. Instead, we can replace them with easy questions, much easier to answer (the easy ones are bolded):
- How much money will I save by the end of the year?
- How much money do I earn now?
- How much will be the price of a bitcoin in the following six months?
- How much is the price of a single bitcoin, now?
- My girlfriend enrolled in piano classes last week. How long will it take her to play piano like a pro?
- How much time does she spend practicing in her spare time?
I think you got the point. The idea is to try to simplify things. When facing a complex task, which you can’t answer, try to look at the problem from another point of view. Disassemble the big chunk into smaller pieces that are easier to execute.
The problem with optimism
Optimism plays an important role in our lives. People with enthusiasm take bold decisions. They are creative, enterprising, leaders of organizations. They look for challenges and are keen on taking risks. You can easily spot an optimism and you’re more likely to follow him, listen to him, when he is speaking, mainly, because they inspire confidence and self-esteem. Even though I consider myself as an optimist, there is a slight problem which we should all be aware of. Optimistic people rarely skip the important data and rely solely on their gut feeling, which in some situation can lead to a disaster.
The chance for a small business to survive five years in the United States is around 35%. Still, people who start such business don’t believe that these statistics apply to them. According to the research shared in the book, most of the entrepreneurs are inclined to believe that their project is promising and that they will succeed. The average success ration, according to them, is 60%. This number is even higher when the person is an optimist. Of course, these numbers are normal in a way. If you ask a person who just opened a coffee shop, you won’t expect him to tell you that he will bankrupt in a few weeks time. No. He will embrace the current setbacks and continue to work.
We start, we fail, we start again and at some point, we succeed, but not always. You shouldn’t feel discouraged by what I mentioned above. Optimism, enthusiasm, and confidence are what moves the world around. Be warn though. Don’t rely on luck or on your willingness to work hard. Before you start a project of any kind, or before you make a bold decision, take the needed time to take into consideration every little detail.
If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do.” Daniel Kahneman
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