Daniel Kahneman is the world’s most influential psychologist because he has, based on empirical research, figured out how we can notice when we are not thinking rationally. That knowledge gives us the choice to think “slow”—ignore brisk intuition and notional risks—when we decide we really need to get something right. His book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is an international best-seller in part because the reader (or listener of his lecture) is invited to make cognitive experiments while reading (or listening). You catch your mind in the act of opting for illusion. To engage Daniel Kahneman ’s work is to experience a delightful carnival ride of one “Busted!” after another. Your own brain becomes a co-instructor in how to use it better.
Daniel Kahneman on taking thought
Before a packed house, Daniel Kahneman began with the distinction between what he calls mental “System 1”—fast thinking, intuition—and “System 2”—slow thinking, careful consideration and calculation. System 1 operates on the illusory principle: What you see is all there is. System 2 studies the larger context. System 1 works fast (hence its value) but it is unaware of its own process. Conclusions come to you without any awareness of how they were arrived at. System 2 processes are self-aware, but they are lazy and would prefer to defer to the quick convenience of System 1.
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“Fast thinking,” he said, “is something that happens to you. Slow thinking is something you do.“
System 2 is effortful The self-control it requires can be depleted by fatigue. Research has shown that when you are tired it is much harder to perform a task such as keeping seven digits in mind while solving a mental puzzle, and you are more impulsive (I’ll have some chocolate cake!). You are readier to default to System 1.
“The world in System 1 is a lot simpler than the real world,” Daniel Kahneman said, because it craves coherence and builds simplistic stories. “If you don’t like Obama’s politics, you think he has big ears.” System 1 is blind to statistics and focuses on the particular rather than the general: “People are more afraid of dying in a terrorist incident than they are of dying.”
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