Book Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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Thinking, Fast and Slow explains when we should and should not rely on our instincts, and how we can benefit from taking our time to make decisions.

Humans tend to overestimate their ability to make judgments and decisions. We are influenced by various cognitive biases, such as the tendency to be overly optimistic or to anchor our opinions to irrelevant information.

When we use our quick, intuitive “System 1” thinking, we often make mistakes. Even when we make an effort to use our slower, more rational “System 2” thinking, we still make errors.

Many managers in the workplace falsely attribute success to their own skills and blame others for failures. When we undertake a project, we tend to underestimate the costs and overestimate the benefits.

Overall, people are irrational, and we can only strive to learn from our mistakes and become less foolish over time.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book review provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

In this Thinking, Fast and Slow book review, I’m going to cover the following topics:

Key Insights

Lesson 1: The Importance of Using System 2 Thinking

Our brain has two systems of thinking, with System 1 being the intuitive and automatic part of our brain that makes quick and effortless decisions based on past experiences and biases. On the other hand, System 2 thinking is the conscious and effortful part of our brain that engages in more analytical and logical thinking processes.

The bat-and-ball problem illustrates how relying solely on System 1 thinking can lead to mistakes, and how our innate mental laziness can limit the strength of our intelligence. By being aware of the limitations of System 1 thinking and consciously engaging in System 2 thinking, we can avoid common errors and make more accurate judgments.

Practicing System-2 tasks, such as focus and self-control, can lead to higher intelligence scores. Therefore, we should train our minds to recognize when System 2 thinking is necessary and practice using it to enhance our decision-making abilities.

Lesson 2: The Power of Priming and Cognitive Biases

Another important lesson from Kahneman’s book is the power of priming and cognitive biases. Priming occurs when exposure to a word, concept, or event causes us to summon related words and concepts, which can influence our thoughts, judgments, and behavior.

Confirmation bias and the halo effect are two cognitive biases that can lead to judgment errors. These biases occur when our minds take shortcuts and oversimplify things without sufficient information, leading us to potentially wrong conclusions.

Heuristics, such as the substitution heuristic and the availability heuristic, are little shortcuts our minds have developed to help us quickly understand our surroundings. However, overusing these heuristics can lead to mistakes, and we must be aware of their limitations and use them appropriately.

Understanding the power of priming and cognitive biases can help us recognize when our minds are being influenced by external factors, and allow us to make more objective and informed decisions.

Lesson 3: Remembering the Base Rate for Better Predictions

The base rate is the statistical probability of an event occurring, which other statistics rely on. When we neglect to remember the base rate, we tend to focus on what we expect to see rather than what is most likely to happen. This can lead to incorrect predictions and flawed decision-making. To avoid base-rate neglect, we need to focus on the statistical probability of an event rather than our expectations. This means we should consider the base rate and take it into account when making predictions.

In everyday life, we often ignore the base rate and focus on what we expect to happen. For example, when seeing five red cabs pass by, we might start to think that the next one will be yellow, even though the statistical probability of a yellow cab is only 20 percent. By remembering the base rate, we can make more accurate predictions and avoid errors in our thinking.

Lesson 4: The Dominance of the Remembering Self

Our memories of experiences are not always accurate. We have two different memory selves – the experiencing self and the remembering self – that remember situations differently. The experiencing self records how we feel in the present moment, while the remembering self records how the entire event unfolded after the fact. The remembering self dominates our memory because it registers memories after the situation is finished.

This dominance of the remembering self can lead to errors in our thinking. For example, when asked to recall a painful colonoscopy, patients who had a shorter procedure with a painful ending remembered it as worse than those who endured a longer, less painful procedure.

This is because the remembering self overemphasizes what occurs at the end of an event, a phenomenon known as the peak-end rule. The remembering self also ignores the total duration of the event in favor of a particular memory, a phenomenon known as duration neglect.

To avoid errors in our thinking, we need to be aware of the dominance of the remembering self and take steps to counteract it. For example, we can try to focus on the experiencing self and pay attention to how we feel in the present moment. We can also try to recall events in a more accurate way by considering the entire duration of the event rather than a particular memory from it.

Lesson 5: The Importance of Framing and Perception in Decision-Making

The way we perceive information and frame it has a significant impact on how we make decisions. Kahneman’s research demonstrates that even slight changes to the framing of a question or statement can dramatically alter the way we approach it.

This has important implications for risk assessment, as demonstrated by the Mr. Jones experiment. The framing of the risk as a relative frequency, rather than a statistical probability, led to different outcomes in the psychiatric professionals’ decision-making.

Similarly, denominator neglect shows how our decisions can be influenced by vivid mental images that distract us from the statistical relevance of the information. This highlights the importance of being aware of how we frame and perceive information, and being mindful of the mental images we rely on when making decisions.

Lesson 6: The Limits of Rational Decision-Making

Kahneman’s prospect theory challenges the idea that we make decisions based purely on rational argument. Instead, it suggests that our decision-making is often influenced by loss aversion, reference points, and the diminishing sensitivity principle. This means that we may not always make rational choices, even when presented with the same information.

The reference class forecasting method is one way to overcome the limitations of relying solely on mental images and to make more accurate predictions. By using specific historical examples, we can make more informed decisions and avoid overconfidence in our mental images.

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1. Comprehensive Overview of Human Thought Processes

One of the major pros of the book is that it provides a thorough analysis of how humans process information and make decisions. By dividing the book into five sections, the author describes the different factors that impact our thinking, including biases, heuristics, overconfidence, framing, and more. This makes it a valuable resource for anyone who wants to understand their own thought processes and how to make better decisions.

2. Interactive Approach

Another pro of the book is its interactive approach to understanding the different ways in which we think. The author asks readers a series of questions that help to illustrate the limitations of our intuitive thinking processes. This approach helps readers to identify their own biases and thought patterns, and to become more aware of the limitations of their own thought processes.

3. Written by a Behavioral Psychology Pioneer

As a Nobel laureate in economics with a background in behavioral psychology, Kahneman is one of the pioneers in the field of behavioral economics. His expertise is evident throughout the book, and he provides a wealth of insights into how the human mind works. This makes the book a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding human behavior and decision-making.


1. Questionable Experiment Design

One potential drawback of the book is that some readers may question the design of certain experiments described in the text. For example, some readers may find that some of the experiments are not equivalent or do not accurately reflect real-world scenarios. While this may be a minor issue, it may make some readers skeptical of the conclusions drawn from certain experiments.

2. Dense Writing Style

Another potential drawback of the book is its dense writing style. The book can be challenging to read at times, and some readers may find it difficult to follow the author’s arguments. However, this is to be expected in a book that delves into complex topics like human cognition and decision-making.

3. Limited Focus on Practical Applications

While the book provides a comprehensive overview of human thought processes, it may not provide as many practical insights or tips for how to improve decision-making in real-world scenarios. While the book does provide some guidance on how to overcome biases and improve decision-making, readers may need to seek out additional resources for more actionable advice.


In conclusion, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman provides a fascinating insight into the way our minds work and the cognitive biases that affect our decision-making process.

Through the examination of various cognitive phenomena such as heuristics, priming, and memory selves, Kahneman illuminates how our minds often take shortcuts to make quick judgments, leading to mistakes and incorrect conclusions. By understanding these cognitive biases and learning to recognize them, we can improve our decision-making skills and increase our overall intelligence.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in psychology, behavioral economics, or just curious about the inner workings of the mind. It challenges us to re-examine our assumptions about how we think and provides practical tools for improving our decision-making process.

About The Author

Daniel Kahneman is a professor at Princeton University and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his work with Amos Tversky on decision-making. He wrote the popular book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Buy The Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow

If you want to buy the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, you can get it from the following links:

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