Reading Room

Thinking Fast and SlowThinking Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman

In this really terrific book Daniel Kahneman explores our two different minds — one deliberate and rational, the other quick and intuitive. And you guessed it, they often don’t agree.

There’s a scene in a “Seinfeld” episode in which Kramer, after reacting emotionally to a movie about a woman in a coma, meets with a lawyer to prepare a living will. The lawyer goes through a list of situations in which a person might want his life supported terminated. “You have a liver, kidneys and a gall bladder but no central nervous system,” the lawyer says. Kramer votes to pull the plug, explaining: “I gotta have a central nervous system!” The lawyer goes on: “One lung, blind, and you’re eating through a tube.” Kramer declines this life, too: “That’s not my style.” “All right,” the lawyer says adding one last circumstance for Kramer to consider. “You can eat, but machines do everything else.” Kramer decides that, in this case, life would be worth living, “because I could still go to the coffee shop.”

Behind the outrageousness of this scene lies a serious question: Can our healthy selves predict how we will feel in unhealthy circumstances with enough certainty to choose whether we would want to live or die? Can our present selves, in general, make reliable choices for our future selves? How good are our decision anyway, and how do we make them.

Daniel Kahneman, a cognitive psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002, has written this terrific book that sheds light on these questions and more like them. It’s focused on the science of decision-making and fulfills Kahneman’s goal to “enrich the vocabulary that people use” when they talk about decisions.

You get the idea — I loved this book and highly recommend it for anyone who has a special interest in how we make decisions…and how we can make them better!

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