Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

I read this several years ago, and catching up now to put pen to page.

All games players should read the first half or so of this book. As I read it, page after page was covered in notes, ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘really?’ ‘but’….

What Kahneman discusses in this book is something we’ve all known in a less rigorous way, perhaps – the intuitive and the analytical paths to decision making and action.

Two Systems

Psychologists have been intensely interested for several decades in the two modes of thinking evoked by the picture of the angry woman and by the multiplication problem, and have offered many labels for them. I adopt terms originally proposed by the psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West, and will refer to two systems in the mind, System 1 and System 2.

System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.

The labels of System 1 and System 2 are widely used in psychology, but I go further than most in this book, which you can read as a psychodrama with two characters.

Surely you chess and bridge players are already sitting up and paying attention. We all know about that psychodrama. He continues:

When we think if ourselves, we identify with System 2, the conscious, reasoning self that has beliefs, makes choices, and decides what to think about and what to do. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is, the automatic System 1 is the hero of the book. I describe System 1 as effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2. The automatic operations of System 1 general surprisingly complex patterns of ideas, but only the slower System 2 can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps. I also describe circumstances in which System 2 takes over, overruling the freewheeling impulses and associations of System 1. You will be invited to think of the two systems as agents with their individual abilities, limitations, and functions.

Of course this hasn’t been written with game players in mind, and you may, like me, find yourself disagreeing with some of the ideas here. For a start, System 1 is based on the infinite hard work of System 2. As far as playing games go, you aren’t born with S1, it grows and improves because of S2. However, it is definitely food for thought and may help clarify aspects of how you are thinking and how you might address issues.

Educational and sometimes astonishing when it comes to how bad we humans are at dealing with data. There is a chapter dealing with Linda.  It’s quite incredible to see that around 90% of undergrads at major universities (I assume US), when presented with details leading to this:

Which alternative is more probable?
Linda is a bank teller.
Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

As the author notes, 89% of undergraduates had violated the rules of probability.

Equally, people were more likely to favour as more likely, the scenario of ‘an earthquake in California leading to a massive flood’, than they were the scenario of ‘a massive flood in the US’

and, most amusingly for all my sports betting friends, the scenario set at Wimbledon with Borg #1 at the time:

A. Borg will win the match
B. Borg will lose the first set
C. Borg will lose the first set but win the match
D. Bord will win the first set but lose the match

The critical items are B and C. B is the more inclusive event and its probability must be higher than that of an event it includes. Contrary to logic, but not to representativeness or plausability, 72% assigned B a lower probability than C

An important part of the book looks at financial investment at low and high levels. Highly worth reading to see what is being done to us from the top.



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