Nat's Reviews > Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 18, 2011

Read in November, 2011

My favorite passage: "When I asked my large undergraduate class in some indignation, 'Do you realize that you have violated an elementary logical rule?' someone in the back row shouted, 'So what?'" (p.158).

Most relevant for me were the many examples of the striking differences in between subjects and within subjects experiments. So, for example, when subjects were asked to judge the value of the following sets of dinnerware presented together, they judged set A as more valuable:

SET A: 40 pieces
8 dinner plates in good condition
8 soup/salad bowls in good condition
8 dessert plates in good condition
8 cups, 2 of them broken
8 saucers, 7 of them broken

SET B: 24 pieces
8 dinner plates in good condition
8 soup/salad bowls in good condition
8 dessert plates in good condition

But when subjects saw only one or the other of the two sets, they judged SET B to be worth more than SET A. Why? When presented with the sets together, they could make a comparative judgment and see that SET A contained more items in good shape than set B. But seen individually, they make a snap judgment of average value of the items in the set, which is higher in SET B than in SET A.

I couldn't help but think about the relevance of this idea when you're putting your CV together. Say there are two candidates for a job. Candidate A has two publications in really good journals. Candidate B has two publications in equally good journals, and also two publications in unrefereed conference proceedings or journals edited by her friends. Considered side by side, maybe Candidate B has a slight advantage over A, but considered individually, Candidate A looks better. The average level of her publications is higher than B's.

Maybe I should prune my list of conference presentations in light of this finding.

Kahneman says (p.354) that "We normally experience life in the between-subjects mode, in which contrasting alternatives that might change your mind are absent..." and that in making decisions we should encourage consideration of "broad context", which includes alternatives (p.361). This is clearly relevant to debates about contextualism and invariantism, conversational context, and the standard linguistic methodology of eliciting intuitions from subjects about individual cases isolated from contrasting cases.
5 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-3)

dateUp arrow    newest »

message 3: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs Really great review.

message 2: by Nat (new) - added it

Nat Thanks!

Deborah The dinner set question seemed obvious to me. One set would drive me crazy, because it was broken. What am I going to do with partial place settings? It isn't an average value issue, it's decreasing the overall value due to the annoyance factor.

back to top