System One Meets System Two: Daniel Kahneman Expands Our Vision

By Diane Cole

May/June 2012

Slow down; you think too fast. That could be the take-home mantra of the distinguished psychologist and Nobel Prize–winner Daniel Kahneman’s brilliant and eminently approachable new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. But to reduce it merely to that wouldn’t be to take the full measure of the intricacies of his—or, for that matter, our own—thinking.

Kahneman and his longtime research partner Amos Tversky (who died in 1996) are widely credited with founding the field of behavioral economics, which uses the psychology of cognition to pin down the reasons behind the frequently irrational, and seemingly inexplicable, behavior of consumers and investors. Kahneman’s and Tversky’s research informed Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller Blink, and inspired the many books about intuitive thinking that appeared in its wake. (See, for instance, my review from January 2011, “Misstating the Obvious: The Pitfalls of Doing What Comes Naturally.”) But where those other books focused primarily on the cognitive errors, false assumptions, illusions, and distortions that an overreliance on intuition can lead to, Kahneman, in Thinking, Fast And Slow, provides nothing less than a comprehensive dissection of the reasoning mind as a whole.

Kahneman posits that there are two systems—one faster than the other, as the title suggests—that comprise the way we make decisions both small and large, choose one product (or career, for that matter) over another,…

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