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le 30 août 2015
If you are studying psychology or statistics, this book might be informative or mildly interesting. If you think you might be interested in learning more about these subjects, this book will probably not leave you gushing with enthusiasm for them.

The first several chapters seem to describe little more than tricks devised to make generally smart people (e.g., graduate students in mathematics) look stupid. Later on, some context for the reasons behind devising those stupidity-inducing tests (to flesh out phenomenon such as regression to the mean, loss aversion, framing effects, etc.) are presented. Some of these examples are good, many are mediocre, and some are weak.

Perhaps my expectations for this book were too high; I expected more insight from a Nobel Prize winner.
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le 22 août 2015
Good read
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le 21 août 2015
It's a must read.
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le 17 août 2015
A great summary of over 50 years of research in judgement and decision making. Very well written, with references to other works that are also equally as valuable for further reading. Truly enjoyed reading this book, I feel like I need to read it again, and summarize each chapter and take notes!
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le 11 juillet 2015
Excellent book!
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le 1 juillet 2015
Why are people not the perfectly rational decision makers (called “Econs”) that standard economics assumes them to be? This book gives us some insight into how the brain works to help answer this question. Unfortunately the goal seems to be limited to helping us become better Econs rather than a deeper understanding of why we think the way we do.

His world seems rather insular, as he interacts mainly with academics like himself, his students, or stockbrokers. He loves to show how trained professionals make irrational choices in their field of expertise. It would be nice to get more insight about the irrational choices the rest of us make. Although he is careful to use gender inclusive language, one gets the impression he has never met an actual woman. For whatever reason, women seem to use their intuitive faculties differently, and one might think that difference would be worth exploring.

Lets Answer an Easier Question Instead
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One interesting fallacy he identifies is the tendency to answer a question by substituting an easier question. While we think of politicians doing this deliberately, we do it all the time unconsciously. A typical question (in this book) would be “Should I buy stock in Mercedes Benz?” which gets replaced with “Do I like their cars?” Of course, the quality of the cars is already taken into account in the stock price, which may be overvalued because too many people like the name.

Substituting an easier question seems to be the theme of the psychological experiments the book is largely based on. It is so much easier to ask questions about money than investigate how beliefs form and how they affect the thinking process.

Practicing What He Preaches
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The writing style is explicitly based on the findings presented in the book. He chooses to describe the parts of our mind as active agents because we can process that better than abstract properties. He tells us the name “System 1” was chosen because it takes less space in working memory than something like “automatic system”. He does not tell us why the more usual term “unconscious” was not chosen, but I assume he is avoiding any association with Freud. Fine, but why not use the even simpler terms “Fast” and “Slow”, as in the title?

Dissecting Our Lazy Two-Part Brain
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The author presents a two part model for our thinking. The automatic “System 1” (I will use his terms in this review) receives information from our senses, quickly processes them according to its own rules, then passes the results to the rational “System 2” for evaluation. But reasoning is hard work, so if we are lazy, or our minds are overloaded, we simply accept the conclusions of the automatic system without questioning them. System 1 performs many essential functions (such as reading this) and does them very well. But its limitations can lead us into irrational decisions.

System 1 makes its decisions using that the author calls “activated memory”, which is loaded mainly from recent experiences. There are plenty of experiments that show how priming, essentially putting ideas into your head just before the decision, can strongly affect the outcome in surprising ways.

But this concept is not fully developed. For example, his chapter on how experts successfully use intuition shows that System 1 has access to all of our memory, not just the activated part. One of his favorite phrases is “What You See is All There Is”, but it seems you can see everything. This idea is a little too simple.

The set of ideas we work with must also determined by our fundamental beliefs, such as emotional and religious beliefs, our concepts of morality, and our sense of belonging to a group. These all act to filter what will get into our activated memory. While the book touches on these issues in various places, it does not connect them to the concept of activated memory.

A Glimpse into the Potential of Neurobiology
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Neurobiology is mentioned a few times in the last part of the book. The idea is that certain modes of brain activity “light up” certain parts of the brain, so one can gain insight into how a problem is being solved. As System 1 operates unconsciously, this technique can help identify which parts of the brain are making the decision. For example, the brain region associated with emotions (the amygdala) was shown to be active when making what looked like simple financial decisions.

Then why is this technique not used more often in the book? Is there even any physical way to detect the difference between System 1 and System 2? This would seem to be a good way to test theories of activated memory, and help develop it into a coherent concept.

The Experiencing and Remembering Self
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The book ends with a dramatic switch from money to philosophical questions of wellbeing and who is the self. Are we the one who experiences in the present moment, or the one who remembers what happened in the past? While this gets reduced to a simple experiment, it is instructive. A group of people experienced two events: 60 seconds of pain, and 60 seconds of the same pain followed by 30 seconds of less pain. People chose to repeat the second experience. Are they crazy? It seems so reading it in plain text. But their memory of experiencing the event is dominated by the relief of the last 30 seconds, so they interpret that as the better experience. We tend to remember peak events, and what came last. Duration is harder to recall.

It works the same way on the positive side. A single exciting event is remembered more than a few weeks of pleasant vacation. So what does it mean to experience a pleasant day on the beach that will later be forgotten? While observational data will not solve a philosophical problem, it can lead us to think about it differently.

Is Teaching Psychology a Waste of Time?
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Not only is this question actually asked in the book, the answer appears to be no. What he means is that the students who learned about fallacies of judgment did not apply the lessons to themselves. One of those lessons should have been that we often fail to realize that the characteristics of a group we belong to might also apply to ourselves.

He should not expect to change behavior by teaching the usual abstract academic course. Maybe he needs to reread his own book. He tells us that the intuition in System 1 can be trained for new tasks. If the goal is to change behavior, then a training course designed to reprogram that intuition is required.

I don’t think the book is a waste of time. One of its many insights is that our System 1 must believe any information it receives in order to parse it, before sending it to System 2 for evaluation. It works that way when I read a book such as this one. I first believe what I read, then later all the problems and limitations become evident. Writing a review helps reveal those problems, which makes it overly critical of this worthwhile book.

Although the scope is mainly limited to how our elites make financial decisions, the lessons in this book can be extended to understand how ordinary people think and behave the way they do. It is worth remembering that the many logical errors the people commonly make occur before the reasoning process is invoked. It is also worth remembering that this applies to me as well. The many insights make this book worth four stars, even if I need to do a lot more work on my own to make the concepts useful.
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le 18 juin 2015
Excellent work. A book to have for all business students.
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le 28 mai 2015
This is one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books. A really fun read, but also extremely useful for revamping your decision-making process in countless aspects of your life. 5/5
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le 11 mai 2015
Should be read by anyone interested in economics and the way that people make decisions.
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le 14 avril 2015
Interesting, but boring to read.
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