This evening, a lucky audience will have the privilege of listening to Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman in conversation with Richard Layard at an event hosted by LSE. They will be discussing Kahneman’s new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, which distils the author’s lifetime of work on the triumphs and pitfalls of conscious and unconscious thinking.
Kahneman is widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential psychologists, and his ideas have shaped the work of many other important thinkers, including experimental psychologist Steven Pinker and behavioural economist Dan Ariely. In his new book, Kahneman explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make decisions – on the one hand what he calls System One, the fast, intuitive and emotional system, and on the other System Two, a slower, more deliberative and logical system. I’m looking forward to reading it, but until I have, I can’t offer my own appraisal.
There’s been a flurry of recent reviews, all of which suggest that I’m in for a treat. William Easterly’s review in the Financial Times pronounces the book a masterpiece. Easterly is ebullient about Kahneman’s choice to be upfront about the fact that ‘experts’ are as prone to making mistakes as anyone else, including him. Knowing that we are irrational in our decision making doesn’t in itself free us from falling into the same traps as everyone else. Easterly describes having to fight off the preying hands of friends and family members in order to get the book read, and says that it is ‘compulsively readable’.
Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian, is also clearly impressed. In his interview with Burkeman, Kahneman is keen to make clear that this is not a self-help book; reading it will not change the way you think. However, having a deeper awareness of how our minds work can only be a good thing, and with attention, it seems we may be able to learn when to trust our intuition and how to harness the benefits of slow thinking.
So, which system of thinking will drive my decision as to whether to buy it now, or wait for the paperback?