Universiti Malaya – Wales

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By Dr David Yoon Kin Tong

This fantastic self-improvement book was written by Prof Kahneman, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. This book has enlightened me on how and why some students can answer some questions fast and slow. It gave me insight into how our mind functions, reacts and decides when questions are posed to us. We tend to think fast and decide on the answers which we think are easy, although not necessarily the correct answer.

The author termed this fast-thinking process ‘System 1’. If someone searches for a mathematical answer to the question, the square root of negative 49, this question requires us to think deeply; if an answer can be provided by us at all. Prof Kahneman called this slow thinking process that requires concentration, ‘System 2’.

System 1 is associated with our memory and experience and can construct coherent interpretation at an instant. System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it and is a subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration. It is said that System 2 can change System 1 work by programming the normally automatic functions of attention and memory. For example, when we are driving, we sometimes talk to the person sitting next to us. System 1 tends to guide the driver automatically to the destination, assuming the road is empty. System 2 can override System 1 and force the driver to stop talking when he or she realises a reckless driver is fast approaching with a high speed. System 2 consciously cautions the driver, instructing the driver to be mindful, stop talking, and hold onto the steering wheel firmly until the reckless driver passes.

Prof Kahneman explains how System 1 and System 2 work together on small numbers, the illusion of understanding, the illusion of validity, Bernoulli’s error and others. The book is easy to follow and suitable for non-technical readers. A must-read book for all to understand why we sometimes provide answers that do not sound logical or convincing to others!

Source / Reference

Daniel Kahneman, (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farbar, Straus and Giroux, New York