top of page

Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

I write a lot about how people think, so this book really appealed to me. It provides thought provoking evidence to make you rethink how you think.

The author is Daniel Kahneman. He is an Israeli-American psychologist and economist known for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, as well as behavioral economics.

What It’s About

This is a book about decision-making and judgment and the imperfect way we think. Kahneman examines the flaws of quick decisions and convincingly shows that our thinking is lazy. He uses many new terms to explain thinking patterns. For example he uses the term “priming effect” to explain how significantly thoughts and behaviors are influenced, much more than we know or want, by the environment of the moment.

Kahneman presents a two-systems approach to understanding judgment and choice; System One operates automatically with little effort, and System Two is controlled and more thoughtful.

Kahneman cites his own and other research studies on thinking and decision-making. There are simply too many studies in the book to try and summarize! One of many interesting studies shows that we have excessive confidence in what we think we know but don’t really know. He says we are blind to the obvious and also blind to our blindness.

Kahneman also covers the difference between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self” and applies this to how people evaluate their life.


This is a thought provoking book that should be read slowly and more than once. I especially enjoyed the chapters on how we (most people) quickly and incorrectly use statistics, and the chapters explaining how we evaluate happiness. He shows how wrong we are in predicting what will make us happy.

Kahneman makes some conclusions that I don’t completely agree with. For example he cites Jim Collins Good to Great and makes the argument that CEOs don’t really matter that much and don’t deserve all the credit they receive for success. He says that much of success is luck. I agree that luck is involved, and that great leadership skills alone do not guarantee success. But I’ve seen plenty of research and had enough experience to know that leadership and management skills are an important factor in the success equation. So I respectfully disagree! But I really like the book.

The book has so many interesting findings that you’ll find yourself talking about it often once you’ve finished. I highly recommend it for anyone.

My Top Take Aways Thinking Fast and Slow

Self-control requires attention and effort. If you are overly busy, are actively involved in difficult thought, or engaged in a task requiring a lot of self control, it’s likely that you’ll start to make bad decisions. It’s as if your brain gets tired! Your System Two is busy, so System One will take over decision-making. System One has little self- control. When System Two is highly engaged, blood glucose level drops which adds to poor decisions. Ingesting glucose can help with this depletion thus helping think more clearly.

People have a need to attribute a cause for everything. Kahneman says that the tendency to see patterns in randomness is overwhelming and causes bad decisions. For example we focus on a few striking events that happened rather than considering the countless events that failed to happen. We end up making decisions based on thinking that A causes B when in fact it’s not true.

Happiness is complicated! It depends on what you remember. People tend to remember recurrent concerns more than everyday happenings. Important achievements or painful failures are remembered far more clearly than a long series of normal but pretty good days! The score we quickly assign to our life is determined by a small sample of highly available ideas, not by a careful weighting of all of the domains of our life. One of the conclusions he draws from this is that the easiest way to increase happiness is to control the use of time and spend more time doing things that make you happy.

Two Quotes I Liked

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.”

“Adaptation to a new situation, whether good or bad, consists in large part of thinking less and less about it.”

Here's a link to Thinking Fast and Slow on Amazon.


bottom of page