February 2012 Selection: Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

At our February meeting we will be discussing the following selection from Peter Farnum:

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (October 25, 2011), 512 pages.

Peter provides the following information to help us prepare for the discussion:

I found “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman to be a remarkably interesting and instructive book. Since it was written by a Nobel Prize winning scientist, rather than a writer who popularizes scientific results, the story line may be less dramatic than other books, but we know the science is accurately described (though there is still plenty of room for scientific debate.)

I’d like to focus on your personal reactions to this book: what you learned about yourself or others, what was most surprising, what you found most credible, what you had trouble believing.

I’ll start off the discussion with a brief description of “System 1” and “System 2”, and then give my own answers to a few of the questions below. Then I’ll open up the discussion to other member’s answers or any other comments they have.

1. What did you learn from this book about how you think, make judgements, decisions? How active/accurate is your “System1”, is your “System 2” energetic or lazy?
2. The author discusses many research studies concerning what influences our minds such as “Priming”, “Anchoring” (think of negotiations), and many others. Which of these phenomena was most interesting/surprising to you? Why?
3. Were you always convinced by the author’s description of the various scientists’ methods, or did you sometimes doubt their conclusions? Give an example of strong or questionable conclusions.
* For example: would you pay more for a set of dishes containing some broken cups and saucers or an identical set with no cups or saucers at all?
* Consider the experiment where a person chokes and very few people offer to help. Is it because they suspect it’s part of the experiment? (Reverse Hawthorne Effect?)
4. Are you convinced that “highly intelligent women tend to marry men who are less intelligent than they are”?
5. Does his finding that professional financial firms do no better in returns than the long term market average make you want to rethink your retirement investment strategy?

Finally since this Ron’s field, I’ll feel free to ask him to contribute liberally and referee any intense discussions. Which brings me to my final question. Kahneman saves some of his most strongly worded criticism for those who make public long-term predictions in an uncertain world. Ron certainly knows this, so why is he so insistent that computers will pass the Turing Test over time in every human endeavor??

Ron responds — Guess I need to study up on “What is a Turing test?” before our discussion!


About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
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