Thinking Fast and Slow
A Book Review
The author of the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman’s is a Nobel Prize laureate. In his piece, he discusses human cognition and irrationality. In the introduction, he identifies two systems of the brain; system 1 and system 2. According to him system 1 entails the intuition part of the brain whose performances are automatic and without logic. System 2 denotes the brain part which requires effort to perform certain mental activities. In real time, human aspects of cognitive biases are associated with system 1, sometimes referred to as the unconscious errors that lead one to make wrong choices. Every section of the book is based on valid and timely experiments which Kahneman had successfully done over a period. He borrows an insight from other scholarly including The Taleb’s Book, and The Black Swan. Through the book, Kahneman narrates the concept of fallacy and the halo effect.
The Character of the Story
Kahneman argues that the human brain consists of two parts, system 1 and system 2. System 1 operates on logic and is characterized by intuition, automatic responses and involuntary reactions which do not require effort to initiate their activities. For example, system 1 is experienced when individual drives, cycles, or swim through facial expressions. This is contrary to system 2 whose operations occurs when one is solving a problem, or reasoning on an issue. According to Kahneman system, 2 require an individual to take considerable time before making a decision. In a real-time scenario, one needs to think when solving a mathematical problem. However, according to Freud and Nietzsche human beings are ignorant of themselves and do not believe as Kahneman says (Cybulska, 2015). According to Kahneman, system 1 and 2 are often in cognitive dissonance with one another. System 1 relies on heuristic concepts which are not accurate while system 2 requires an element of effort when evaluating heuristics errors. Kahneman aims to help one develop strategies necessary for recognizing instances where mistakes are likely to occur and consider avenues that can help mitigate them.
Contextual Application of Attention and Effort
This section presents different tests which the author uses to emphasize how the human brain can accommodate certain analytical types of machinery. Kahneman gives a detailed and clear picture of the function of the parts of the brain and how it influences behaviour. Further, Kahneman (2012) makes it clear that slow thinking affects our bodies regarding attention and energy consumption. He argues that with slow thinking, individuals are susceptible to quick reactions needed to solve the problem without much thought. Kahneman says it is through this that lethargy is instilled into an individual way of action. It is evident that human beings are prone to choosing life paths that are effortless to accomplish their routinized jobs. This is contradictory to the fact that we require slow thoughts to manage and run complicated tasks. From the above deductions, I can say that, when an individual needs something, say a burger, system 1 will deduce that, one needs a burger while system 2 will infer a reminder note so that one don’t forget to buy the burger (Cybulska, 2015).
The Concept of Laziness
Kahneman argues that a person while enjoying him/herself will pause when asked to engage in robust mental activity. For instance, walking and computing require energy and super attention. This informs the reason why when a person is interrupted when participating in a troubling activity get frustrated and annoyed. Through this, we learn the reason why most people who are doing projects that require extreme focus tend to forget eating as a result of multitasking. Again, we are reminded of the danger of multitasking. The chances of a driver causing an accident while driving and engaging on the phone are very high. Also, an exceptionally stressed person finds it hard to resist temptation. Self-regulation loses its grit when one is tired, offended, or mentally exhausted. Because of this, the body system is prone to subject itself to system 1 which takes over intuitively (Cybulska, 2015). At such moments, a person does not take time to think about the matter at hand. Kahneman openly elucidates that intelligence required to handle situations at hand does not lie in the ability to reason, but also in the ability to establish valid resources in our retention and deploy attention when required. Memory efforts are a requirement when embarking on some issues of interest failure to which a person is reduced to a victim of heuristic errors.
The Associative Operationality
Chapter four of Kahneman book presents the first part of the mental assumption and the priming concept. Kahneman argues that the conscious and the subconscious part of the brain when exposed to stimuli makes a person in context to engage further with the associated idea for more unfolded information. For example, if an individual is participating in a nutrition topic, the mention of the word SO_P, prompt the person to fill a blank with letter “U” to complete the word “soup.” This is contrary to a person who has been talking about detergents who when tempted fill the gap with letter “A” to form the word “soap” since in his mind the concept of the topic is readily available.
External stimuli to our conscious mind influence how we think and approach situations, which further alter an individual character (Kahneman, 2012, p. 53). From the narrative, we can comfortably denote that individuals who engage with old pieces of literature might be indirectly influenced to act like older adults. And similarly, they may be conversant with words mostly used, adopted and associated with old age. What we consistently interact with have a high degree of influencing our thought character (Kahneman, 2012, p. 36). For instance, a person who views violent-films might end up acting violently. Also, people who read comical fiction end up behaving like the characters in their small world. Therefore, it’s clear that our physical environment informs our characters. With such instances in place, we are prone to heuristic errors, our rational and objective deductions of situations are impaired with the fault reality we interact within our environment impacting our attitude and character unconsciously.
Kahneman developed the associative operationality basing it on the Prospect Model of Daniel Bernoulli. He terms it the Bernoulli’s error since people are not perfect when analysing situations. For instance, he postulates that no amount of statistical reasoning can be used to cover the fear that is always felt in our brain. As such, the tsunami which hit Japan in 2011, instilled fear in people who up to date fear to spend their holiday in the affected city. Further, the author notes that most people feel happy when they receive extra cash than when they misplace a coin. Kahneman points out that people are grieved with a loss compared to the pleasure of finding something interesting. He calls this effect as the loss aversion. This is similar to the finding of the Pavlov experiment of conditioning (Basar, 2006). People tend to behave in a certain way out of their experiences in life.
The Loss Aversion Model
This model explains why people fear instances that involve loss. People want to always win at all time. In the book, Kahneman contrasts the psychological gain and psychological loss as presented in system 1. This is an error because situations that seem to bear loss might turn out to be captivating and those believed to be ideal may end up frustrating. Because of fear people may end up making quick and prompt decisions which may not be correct. This is informed by system 1 which does not allow one to engage in critical thinking before resolving (Kahneman, 2012, p. 97). The assumptions made at a prevailing situation might either favour or work against an idea. In contrast, when the same person takes his/her time to analyse the case as per the system 2, he might end up benefiting. This applies to all cases no matter the urgency and technicalities involves.
The Cognitive Ease
Cognitive ease relates to things which require less mental engagement. These include actions that are easily computed and need strict cerebral involvement. This concept prompts various questions such as how can an individual tell that a statement is built on truth or falsehood, or can the problem be solved basing our argument on logic or the association that we hold to our beliefs systems (Kahneman, 2012, p. 105). If such happens, then with no doubts, a person will have a sense of mental ease. This is attributed to the fact that familiar objects within our reach seem to be true, such as advertisers and marketers who have close links with the locals. Information which comes from such people tends to be true to the people in context because of the sense of believing they have with the parties involved.
Norms and Belief Systems
Kahneman asserts that to make sense of the current world, we ought to affirm to stories that are circulating within our reach. Through such, we can associate with them creating a friendly atmosphere. From the book it evident that things which happen when we do not expect to leave us surprised. Thus, to help address such instances, we are reminded to tell ourselves of upcoming stories to normalize them into our systems. Abnormalities and inconsistencies in our lives require coherent explanations. Such explanations according to Kahneman (2012, p. 113) involves assumptions that are meant to happen or casualties which makes people be in their current state. Alternatively, it is argued that interpreting providence asserts that there might be a perfect drive to why things happen the way they do. This is clear from the moment we are born; we are prepared to have impressions that casualties occur which don’t require reasoning. From such instances, our minds are ready to spot agents to assign those particular roles and personality alignment which in the long run, view them and their actions as individual propensities which are prone to error. In most instances, we confuse casualties with correlation, and we go even further to make assumptions that are statistically allowed.
The Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias entails a disposition of exploring available resources to find and establish evidence for an absolute belief. In this case, hasty conclusions are accepted if they help cut additional expenses that may be incurred when the due process is followed. Hasty and unthoughtful conclusions are risky when dealing with unfamiliar situations that require high stakes of time to gather the necessary information (Basar, 2006). In such case, system 1 clouds the thought system with automated guesses as well as interpretations which concurs with our stories at hand. The author describes system 1 as being gullible and bias. On the other hand, system 2 is charged with certain unbelieving concepts through interactions. It is termed as busy and often lazy.
The Halo Effect
The halo effect is a behaviour of either liking or disliking a person. The result happens because of one of the things we hear from third parties regarding a subject. Sometimes the information is formed on perceptions and individual view. The feelings we develop towards people, places, events or a thing influences our attitude towards it. A good impression is said to elude a positive reaction while negative impact tends to affect the subsequent events (Kahneman, 2012, p. 140). For example, in a meeting setting the first speaker to speak about a topic can directly or indirectly prime others speakers’ opinions regarding the same problem. That is if he uses positive adjectives to colour the topic of discussion, then those who will speak after him may find it hard to paint the issue negatively. In the same manner when the first speaker uses negative adjectives, then his desertion negatively impacts the subsequent speakers. The aforenoted examples explain how and why our judgements are dynamic, for we rarely take time to think through and examine our thought.
The Prospect Theory
Kahneman points out that the concept of fame attached to the Nobel Price is an example of prospect theory. According to economics, people believe that when you have money, you can freely buy whatever you need, but this theory objects the idea and instead suggests that the value of money is less crucial compared to the experience that is attached to wealth (Kahneman, 2012, p. 164). Kahneman furthers states that it is painful when a person loses $50 compared to $ 250 which he doesn’t have at that very moment. Kahneman is correct in his argument as prospect theory explains individual decision under risk conditions. A person is aggrieved to lose what one has rather than what is expected.
The intuitive part of the brain relies on the necessary assessment of the external stimuli of the mind. The mind in most instances does not pay attention to all that happens (Kahneman, 2012, p. 193). As a result, we fail to get actual outcomes because we base our final judgements on the averages we form in our minds. The mind unconsciously and automatically weighs the advantages of a subject by aligning similar and dissimilar features. Following such individuals are prone to analyzing situations without taking the keen evaluative decision of the variable involved. This concept is what is referred to as the ‘memory shotgun concept.’ Thus, if not given attention, system 1 reaction may influence the functionality of system 2, mainly when making judgements. People tend to expect more out of a situation than the underlying circumstance.
The Optimism Bias
The optimism bias thought rests on the idea that people are victims of negligence and spend more time on the internal factors that influence their action forgetting their external factors. Individual believe that the outcome of their actions is as a result of their efforts and that luck has nothing to do with such. They think that external factors do not influence their activities. Kahneman identifies that many people suffer from the illusion of control. He further argues that disbelief is a sign of weakness and as a result, we are made to seek counsel from other people whom we think are expert, but end up availing wrong outcomes (Kahneman, 2012, p. 213).
When an individual is faced with a troubling query or decision, he or she may take the easy way out when formulating the answers. This happens when one fails to estimate the various outcomes that might be obtained from the same situation. For example, when one is asked to explain the concept of happiness, he ought to apply the mind-bending philosophical concepts to give both denotative and connotative meaning. Rarely do people use such ideas because individuals need easy avenues to what we want? People are afraid of thinking and putting situations and perspectives. However, daring individuals are always anxious and often apply system 2. They are defined with an obsession for variety. This is contrary when compared to system 1 which might be functioning reversely. In such situations, system 1 is defined by people who are walking around, trusting, fearing, sleeping or taking a breath. This is because they always replace the harder part of life with an easier one making them prone to heuristic error (Kahneman, 2012, p. 293). Emotions influence our actions, decisions and judgement. More often, the individual’s reality of the world is shaped by beliefs and personality. When people allow feelings to dictate their actions, they cloud their judgement, and more often develop tendencies of overestimating the risks and rewards of a situation.
The Hindsight Fallacy
The hindsight fallacy aspect of thought rests on the correlation which the future has with the past. People use past experiences to fathom the future. For instance, individuals are made to believe a situation in respect to what happened in the near past. Kahneman caution that for as much as people tend to say that they understand the past, they do not. The tendency of reviewing the past to inform our belief systems exposes us to a husky of cognitive fantasy. For example, Kahneman, (2012, p. 303) points out that, if a person is a client and something happens to order, one tends to blame the assigned character of forgetting to include what was needed. With such happenings, people ought to understand that some things which appear perfect in the foresight may afterwards look irresponsible and unnecessary in hindsight.
The Law of Small Numbers
From the book, it is evident that our thought systems experience a hard time when engaging with statistical computations. System 1 of the brain works well with the results of small data forgetting that sometimes the results obtained through assumptions are insufficient with potential errors. Though science tends to believe in the law of small sample as a population representative, the effect tends to be biased. For clarity, small numbers should be applied in situations which call for little attention because some statistical information cannot be well deduced when using small numbers summarised. When the law is blindly applied, it might result in errors such as omission and original entry.
Self Believe over Doubt
From Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman presents a system where one suppresses doubt by establishing narratives from raw data while system 2 waits for the stories formulated by system 1 for evaluation and critical analysis. Our brains have patterns of recognition which tend to attribute casualties even where it does not exist when regulations occur at random instances. For example, when a person identifies a system inclined to law, they reject the concept randomly. Kahneman, (2012) postulates that individuals ought to accept the varied results for similar reasons. He furthers that in the current world, we have more instances of luck, and people involved have no clue of tendering a valid explanation of what force is or was behind the outcome. This result in errors for everybody will be trying to explain the philosophy behind their action, sometimes even where it is not required. However, this is not usually the case.
The Narrative Fallacy
This attempts to explain how individuals tend to derive sense from their surroundings, through it, they adopt historical narratives to describe the current endings. In this sense, people believe their intuition more than the reality posed by their surroundings. For instance, if something happens, you may hear a person saying, ‘I knew that was going to happen.’ The physical surrounding that an individual stays plays a critical role in informing his wellbeing. How he behaves and handles, situations are influenced by where he lives. When a problem occurs, the fundamental factors applied in de-constructing which are borrowed from the past. Narratives revolving around similar scenarios are used to solve the current issue. The result obtained may not be accurate because of the changing times.
Induced Blindness Model
An individual who has not had a closer experience with a particular risk may end up underestimating pending risks which may occur as a result. Emotion and the media play a critical role in influencing the perception of their direct consumers. When a story is aired in media repetitively, our senses of perception are warped. For example, information regarding a plane crash, when televised, might make some individual think that air travel is insecure. The more people fear travelling via air, the more the news reporters can make it known to the public. As a result, negative feedback is developed. The effect of hearsays impacts the air travel performances negatively when compared to positive news about the same subject.
The Anchoring Effect
The anchoring effect is a phenomenon of deriving incorrect estimates based on rumours. Individuals in most instances regulate their stereo sounds by their previous experiences (anchors). The author notes that parental anchors are of low decibels while that of children is high. For example, one may feel that driving at 60 KPH is way high if he or she has been driving at a speed of 40 KPH (Kahneman, 2012). The model denotes that people are more suggestive in regards to their daily encounters, but they do not realize. Kahneman like other scholars makes emphasis on the importance of learning. People anchor their memory through their experiences.
The Endowment Effect
This theory helps explain why we are inclined so much to things we often use compared to those we rarely use. Such objects are significance, and we are not ready to distance ourselves from them. For example, one might be liking a pair of his shoes more compared to others that are available. As a result, he will end up putting it on more to the point of neglecting other good pairs. A similar scenario can be applied to someone who has bought a new phone; he may use his new gadget more often than his old handset. The value that one puts on the new devices is higher compared to other old devices within his reach. On the other hand, things that people do not use regularly are neglected or given away.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy
This concept tends to explain the reason why people hold on in certain situations even when they are unpleasant. For example, one may be willing to spend considerable money to feel the touch of the previous experience. This happens when one does not want to be termed or seen as a failure. It is worrying to note that people are choosing pain over pleasure. They are ever willing to spend time in comfort and again spend more time wallowing in misery because of their lazy intuitions informed by system 1 instead of spending more time in crafting sound solutions to problems they are facing. All these explain the powers of heuristics (Basar, 2006). Heuristic errors alter our choices. Therefore, to make better and informed decisions, people need to seek psychological assistance to regulate their natural behaviours. Again, the concept of freedom accords everyone an opportunity to do what is either good or bad because every action comes with consequences.
Basar, E. (2006). The theory of the whole-brain-work. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 60(2), 133–8.
Cybulska, E. (2015). Freud’s burden of debt to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, 15(2), 251-3.
Kahneman, D. (2012). Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Straus and Giroux.