AUTHOR: DANIEL KAHNEMAN
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE: ENGLISH
A bible for those who curiously ask themselves "Why we think, the way we think"
Although, my friend Raghuveer made me acquainted with this book, my colleague Raghav put forth a question from this book that intrigued me and pulled me into reading it. It took me two weeks to complete and it may take many more years for me to completely comprehend what this book meant. Here I am trying to just summarize from my perspective.
This book is a masterpiece on thinking itself. The first of its kind book in my reading experience.
The book begins by specifying the systems in the mind as System 1 and System 2. Few lines from the book itself
"System 1 - It operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control
System 2 - It allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex calculations"
There are some wonderful examples of this system and explaining how the mind works. Also, the book is filled with some clear and at times simplified, mundane examples of mental activity.
The book is filled with experiments that the author along with his friend Amos Tversky performed over the years and their learning from them. The book ignited hidden ambiguity within the mind and gave some strong reasoning. I was astonished by few answers and how these are related to statistics too.
PART 1 deals with the two systems mentioned above. To summarize this, I could say that while System 1 is driven by reflex, emotion and comfort and some cognitive bias, System 2 is takes it's own sweet time that is - it's lazy and also trying to control the thoughts. System 1 is prejudiced and hasty while System 2 is deliberate and lazy.
PART 2 gives and elaborated patterns and effects with numerous experiments. It was interesting to learn how by default mind plays the guessing game. It looks for patterns in persons, nature and almost everything in the universe. Based on the patterns it tries to guess what next or tries to help visualize the mind what is going to happen next. This is itself was an amazing insight among many other insights given Also, the book conveys the idea that gutting or trusting your intuition always may not be a good idea as intuition derives cues from previous experiences (see how pattern seekers we are).
PART 3 is named OVERCONFIDENCE and it places various factors for the same within the mind. From overlooking reality due to the effect of System 1 (prejudice) to having illusions manifested with previous consequences or by trusting the intuition. More or less, we tend to trust our senses and try to go with them and only when it does not give the desired result we are shattered and then the typical existential questions like "where did I go wrong in the first place?" pop up. The chapter "Expert Intuition: How Can We Trust It?" elaborated many aspects and throws light on some fine nuances in the thought process too.
PART 4 is where the author took Bernoulli's hypothesis (I hardly understood the technical aspects of this) and built and alternative model called "Prospect Theory". While Bernoulli's theory stated that there is the same amount of emotion involved in happiness or sadness, the "Prospect Theory" begs to differ and says the level of emotion involved in each circumstance may vary.
Simply put - find $10 is not as same as losing $10. There are many parameters that have to be considered here.
The author spoke at length about "Endowment Effect" wherein he says a person feels owed more to what he naturally possess over being owed to those that are either acquired/given/ inherited. This is a great thought I would say and this was another surprise element for me.
The chapter "Bad Events" helps us understand how the mind gives a lot of weight to the end. A movie might have a great beginning but if the climax is not good (as per our satisfaction levels) we tend to term the movie as bad. Also, another chapter "Rare Events" deals with why the mind acts in a specified manner in case of certain events. Example, people affected by Tsunami tend to be away from beached for many days.
The chapters "Fourfold Pattern", "Risk Policies", "Keeping Score" elucidate the responses of the brain in risky situations and how is risk considered understood and what it takes the mind takes to mitigate the risk.
PART 5 deals with two Selves of the mind, the experiencing self, and the remembering self. More often than not. the remembering self-dominates us. For the remembering self, it is the end that matters whether it's an abyss or peak. Experiencing in itself is a time-consuming process that demands it's own bandwidth and space within the mind and acts slowly.
So that was a summary of how I perceived the book. It was a great experience for me. For few aspects, I could map them to some aspects of Hindu Philosophy and even spiritual thinking too.
I am sure that those who have seriously read the book once would mostly have a changed rationale in thinking and also their perception towards individuals may be affected too. This book is strong, to say the least, but indeed it only makes us realize how much more powerful the wonderful mind is.