Book Group for April 9th, "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

For April 9th, we will read the first portion of the book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman.  We will read chapters Intro, 1-13, pages 3-145. This book is an excellent overview of the two systems that we use to think about problems and make decisions in life.  System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.  Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities - and also the faults and biases - of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thought and behavior. (from the book jacket)

This is a highly regarded book.  I've been wanting to cover this for book group for more than a year.  There are many copies in the library.  The Washington County Library currently shows 9 copies available (out of 39), plus an audio version, and an e-book version.

Note that we are going to proceed through this book in three sessions instead of the usual 2, owing to the books length (418 pages).  In the final of the three sessions, we will also be discussing the book, "Free Will" by Sam Harris.

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: Drawing on decades of research in psychology that resulted in a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, Daniel Kahneman takes readers on an exploration of what influences thought example by example, sometimes with unlikely word pairs like "vomit and banana." System 1 and System 2, the fast and slow types of thinking, become characters that illustrate the psychology behind things we think we understand but really don't, such as intuition. Kahneman's transparent and careful treatment of his subject has the potential to change how we think, not just about thinking, but about how we live our lives. Thinking, Fast and Slow gives deep--and sometimes frightening--insight about what goes on inside our heads: the psychological basis for reactions, judgments, recognition, choices, conclusions, and much more.

If you have an idea for the next book, please let me know.  I am possibly thinking about a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.


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  • Pete A.

    The book I mentioned at Wednesday's meeting--Networks: A Very Short Introduction--is about networks in general, not specifically in the brain or about how we think. I have yet to see a description of how network properties account for cognitive biases, so I have been working on that myself.

    April 10, 2014

  • Pete A.

    Wonderful discussion on a defining book of the 21st century. Well-organized meeting, informed, intelligent participants, lively discussion. Enlightening and fun. Can't wait till next month!

    April 9, 2014

  • Bob W.

    Note the historically accepted ideas about human nature: (1) people are generally rational.
    (2) Departures from rationality occur because of emotions such as fear, affection, and hatred. Kahneman holds that people are not rational and that errors in thinking come from the design of the machinery of cognition. This machinery is explored by the metaphor of two agents, called System 1 and System 2.

    April 8, 2014

    • Pete A.

      Pay particular attention to the first paragraph on p. 52, where Kahneman describes "a vast network, called associative memory". Think of ideas as pattern recognizers. Add a little network theory, and you start to have explanations for the cognitive biases. They emerge naturally from the properties of the network.

      April 9, 2014

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