Thinking, Fast and Slow
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30, 512 pp.
Daniel Kahneman is the most respected and influential psychologist in America, if not the world. Who else in psychology has been awarded a Nobel Prize in economics while achieving major breakthroughs in the fields of cognition, decision theory, memory studies, life narratives, and happiness? Now Kahneman has produced a landmark book that deserves all the praise it is getting. In five hundred densely packed pages he offers an overview and synthesis of decades of the fascinating research that has been his life’s work.
Readers making their way through the thirty-eight succinct chapters of Thinking, Fast and Slow will enjoy not only a crash course in cognitive psychology, but also an intriguing and even entertaining story. Kahneman’s research began in the 1970s when, as a young Israeli army psychologist, he was assigned the task of assessing the leadership potential of recruits. The assessment team worked hard, conducting interviews and behavioral exercises to arrive at their predictions. Yet follow-up studies of the subsequent actual performance of their subjects revealed that the team’s predictive judgments were often faulty. What puzzled Kahneman was the fact that his fellow assessors were reluctant to change their methods even in the face of statistical proof that those methods were not working. Why were highly intelligent individuals so resistant to rational thinking?