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Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman
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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) – a recapitulation of the decades of research that led to his winning the Nobel Prize – explains his contributions to our current understanding of psychology and behavioral economics. Over the years, Kahneman and his colleagues, whose work the book discusses at length, have significantly contributed to a new understanding of the human mind. We now have a better understanding of how decisions are made, why certain judgment errors are so common and how we can improve ourselves. 

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“Complex processes put in simple words, accompanied by adequate examples – this book-in-blinks made me reflect on the way I make decisions and interpret major events in life. If you’re looking for thought-provoking reading material, that’s your pick!”

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Key idea 1 of 12

The lazy mind: how laziness can lead to errors and affect our intelligence.

To see how the two systems work, try solving this famous bat-and-ball problem:

A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The price that most likely came to your mind, $0.10, is a result of the intuitive and automatic System 1, and it’s wrong! Take a second and do the math now.

Do you see your mistake? The correct answer is $0.05.

What happened was that your impulsive System 1 took control and automatically answered by relying on intuition. But it answered too fast.

Usually, when faced with a situation it can’t comprehend, System 1 calls on System 2 to work out the problem, but in the bat-and-ball problem, System 1 is tricked. It perceives the problem as simpler than it is, and incorrectly assumes it can handle it on its own.

The issue the bat-and-ball problem exposes is our innate mental laziness. When we use our brain, we tend to use the minimum amount of energy possible for each task. This is known as the law of least effort. Because checking the answer with System 2 would use more energy, our mind won’t do it when it thinks it can just get by with System 1.

This laziness is unfortunate, because using System 2 is an important aspect of our intelligence. Research shows that practicing System-2 tasks, like focus and self-control, lead to higher intelligence scores. The bat-and-ball problem illustrates this, as our minds could have checked the answer by using System 2 and thereby avoided making this common error.

By being lazy and avoiding using System 2, our mind is limiting the strength of our intelligence.

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