Minireviews: Daniel Kahneman, Jon Ronson
January 18, 2012 1 Comment
Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)
The brain works in two modes: System 1, which is fast, automatic, good enough in many situations, but inaccurate in others, and System 2, which is slow, deliberate, and more rational. Using System 2 usually leads to smarter decisions, but is hard work, so that often when we get a question that should be answered by System 2, we substitute it with a simpler one that can be answered by System 1. This doesn’t mean snap decisions are worthless: Experts train their System 1 to recognize cues that enable valuable intuitive leaps. But this requires training, when it is possible at all.
Recommended: Strongly. This is a definitive book on the subject. My one objection is that long after proving that nobody has an intuitive sense of probability or statistics, psychologists persist in running experiments about people’s intuitive sense of probability and statistics. Why? Are they perhaps substituting a simpler question for a harder one? Also, don’t let people like Kahneman decide policy! Their research gives them authoritarian instincts.
Jon Ronson – The Psychopath Test (2011)
I normally mock pop-sci books that have only about 30 pages of actual content, and this is one of those books. The rest of it is just the author telling the story of what an amazing time he had travelling all over the world doing research: Talking to mad Swedes, Scientologists, potential psychopaths, etc. It’s journalistic filler, but Ronson is such a great storyteller that I couldn’t put it away.
Recommended: Reluctantly, but yes. Damn you, Jon Ronson. Damn you!