Thinking fast and slow – understanding how decisions are made

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, author of a number of seminal studies in behavioural psychology, behavioural economics, and happiness studies, has authored his first book – Thinking, Fast and Slow, published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2011 describing how the brain makes decisions.

Graham Reeves, Chairman of the EI Human and Organisational Factors Committee writes:

“This is an entertaining and easy to read book, in which the author provides the reader with his current understanding of judgment and decision making.

The two different ways by which the brain forms thoughts are described:

  • System 1:  Where thought is fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and subconscious
  • System 2:  Where thought is slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, and conscious

The largely unconscious System 1 makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb.  The painfully conscious System 2 on the other hand slowly checks the facts and does the sums.  However, it is lazy, easily distracted and usually defers to System 1.

Loss aversion, anchoring, substitution, framing, choice, rationality and optimism are all explained and help the reader to understand just why we make the decisions we do.

Kahneman provides practical insight as to how choices are made in our everyday lives and on how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental hiccups that get us into trouble.”

Could this be a useful read for those working in the energy sector (probably by more advanced users), particularly in informing emergency response and control room operations?  For example, if the planning of emergency response is based on ‘System 2’ thinking, during its implementation in rapidly changing situations will the plan hold up if people revert to ‘System 1’ thinking?

2 Responses to Thinking fast and slow – understanding how decisions are made

  1. Frank Verschueren says:

    I found this also an interesting book well written.

    I have to inform you however that neurological insights are still improving and that other findings are relativating his theories. So be aware to not jump to biased conclusions 🙂

  2. Sarah G says:

    See also “Blink”, by Malcolm Gladwell, about how our brains make quick decisions through a number of instantaneous, sub-conscious processes. Fascinating stuff.

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