Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking Fast and Slow, is new to me, but not to others… In 2002 he received the Nobel Prize in Economics. He is Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Thinking Fast and Slow focuses on the mind and, in particular, on two very distinct ways of thinking. System I is thinking that is intuitive and emotional. System II requires complex analysis of information, requiring a series of steps to work through information to reach a conclusion.
Slow thinking is deliberative. It differs from fast thinking not only in the speed with which it occurs, but the steps and process by which it happens. One of Kahneman’s initial examples of deliberative thinking is the process of multiplying 17 x 24. He opines that most people can’t immediately multiple complex numbers. No question that for me, as for most of us, reaching an answer to this mathematical process requires a series of steps. There is nothing intuitive about the answer.
Kahneman analyzes various aspects of how we think, the factors that influence the speed and accuracy with which we analyze information, as well as ways in which we can improve the quality of our deliberative activities. While academic in the detail and in the explanations of the concepts on which he relies, the studies and experiments on which he rely represent a significant leap forward in our understanding of the human mind. He also manages to effectively wrap into this analysis a lesser analysis of the impact of fast and slow thinking on the seemingly unrelated analysis of happiness and pain.
In his conclusion, Kahneman describes the mind as an “uneasy interaction between two fictitious characters: the automatic System 1 and the effortful System 2.” Thinking Fast and Slow is a book to be studied, rather than merely read. Each of us can enhance the quality and accuracy of our decision-making by studying his work. It is more than worth the effort required.