Thinking, Fast and Slow explores the idea that the brain works in two ways (they are described as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is quick and jumps to conclusions, whereas System 2 is more cautious and “capable of reasoning”. It is System 1 with it’s quick reactions that can cause issues, especially when it is jumping to conclusions based on information that isn’t necessarily true, but feels true.
The idea of illusions is explored and Daniel states that “Not all illusions, are visual”. Throughout the book Daniel shows a number of visual illusions. Even when there is an explanation, it can be difficult to really understand how your brain is fooled, so it makes the idea of cognitive illusions even more scary.
Priming is discussed with the idea that “your actions and your emotions can be primed by events of which you are not even aware”. Daniel has lots of scientific evidence to back this up. This is something I particularly find scary in the modern world that can be full of propaganda. Especially when you combine promoting with with the idea that if you hear something often enough you believe it.
Another discussion point is overconfidence. I am happy to say that Daniel believes optimists live the happiest lives, however, he warns the reader that the “Optimistic bias can be both a blessing and a risk, you should be both happy and wary if you are a temperamentally optimistic”. This is based on the idea that an optimistic will rush into things, without a care in the world or doing all of the due-diligence.
The book claimed to help you with your decision process. Daniel states that “Every significant choice we make in life comes with uncertainty”. Therefore, you will never be able to make the perfect decision. All you can do is use the information you have and make the best decision you can in that moment. This chapter also discusses the idea of regret. Daniel claims that “Regret is an emotion, and it is also a punishment that we administer to ourselves. The fear of regret is a factor in many of the decisions that people make”. This is totally understandable.
The last chapter of the book explores the idea that there is an experiencing self and a remember self. Daniel explains that for well-being and happiness you need to be happy in the experience, but also happy when remembering. The selves do work differently so ensuring both is happy is vital for long-term well-being and happiness.
The overall message I got from this book is that the brain works in two different ways, but we don’t have much control. We can try to do is increase our understanding and therefore awareness.
A quote that has stuck with me is that
“You believe the story you make up”.
This is seen from the media being able to tell you compelling stories repeatedly that you believe, or in the idea that we remember events based on the story we tell ourselves about that experience.
Daniel Kahneman is a noble prize winner and this book is full of science. There are case-studies, experiments, probability discussions and lots more. This made for a tough read, but totally worth it. Thinking, Fast and Slow isn’t like any other book I have read!
Fancy a read? Buy Thinking, Fast and Slow here
I read this book as part of PropelHer’s Book Club. PropelHer’s Book Club is the ultimate book club for ambitious. If you want to read more books to help you move forward in your life and achieve more check out PropelHer’s Book Club.