Max's Reviews > Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
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Dec 22, 11

Read in December, 2011

Along with Poor Economics, this was my number one book of the year. It was extremely well-written and interesting throughout. I appreciated the combination of personal anecdotes and descriptions of the academic work that he performed; I thought this lent itself to better retention of the material. I also liked that comprehension and retention were obvious priorities, a fact that was made evident by the short "Speaking of..." sections at the end of every chapter. This also solidified my recent decision that, for most subjects, it is better to read a book by an expert who is a good writer, than a book by a good writer who has some subject expertise. Kahneman's expertise in the area of behavioral psych allowed him to speak authoritatively on the subject, and I think it allowed me to absorb more knowledge and feel more confident about that knowledge.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it." p. 402

"The feelings associated with different activities suggest that another way to improve experience is to switch time from passive leisure, such as TV watching, to more active forms of leisure, including socializing and exercise. From the social perspective, improved transportation for the labor force, availability of child care for working women, and improved socializing opportunities for the elderly may be relatively efficient ways to reduce the U-index of society—even a reduction by 1% would be a significant achievement, amounting to millions of hours of avoided suffering." p. 395

"Animals, including people, fight harder to prevent losses than to achieve gains. In the world of territorial animals, this principle explains the success of defenders. A biologist observed that “when a territory holder is challenged by a rival, the owner almost always wins the contest—usually within a matter of seconds.” In human affairs, the same simple rule explains much of what happens when institutions attempt to reform themselves, in “reorganizations” and “restructuring” of companies, and in efforts to rationalize a bureaucracy, simplify the tax code, or reduce medical costs. As initially conceived, plans for reform almost always produce many winners and some losers while achieving an overall improvement. If the affected parties have any political influence, however, potential losers will be more active and determined than potential winners; the outcome will be biased in their favor and inevitably more expensive and less effective than initially planned. Reforms commonly include grandfather clauses that protect current stake-holders—for example, when the existing workforce is reduced by attrition rather than by dismissals, or when cuts in salaries and benefits apply only to future workers. Loss aversion is a powerful conservative force that favors minimal changes from the status quo in the lives of both institutions and individuals."
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