Behavioral Book Breakdown: “Thinking, Fast and Slow”

Carrying these posts over from my personal site, as I believe that behavioral science can have a great impact on the public sector, especially given the relative lack of funding. Behavioral science can generate low-cost solutions to entrenched problems, and so I’ll occasionally describe books I’ve read on the subject.

Author: Daniel Kahneman

Year: 2011

So this is kind of the ur-text for this subject. It’s thick (literally), and dense (in every sense of the word). It will cover every single cognitive bias (or “heuristic”) that had been studied up through its publication, most of which were codified by Kahneman himself and his late partner Amos Tversky. Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for his behavioral science work, and the discipline would literally not exist if it weren’t for these two men.

But my god, it is not easy to read.

I took it with me on my vacation in early September. I read a novel very quickly and then turned back to this one. And my vacation was extended because of weather issues. And I could only get through 30 or maybe 40 pages on a good day. It was just that dense.

I struggled to the finish line. And I like Kahneman. A brilliant man whose work has ultimately, if indirectly, changed my life and that of many others.

But this is much more of a reference book than a book you can really leaf through or apply to your life from moment to moment.

The other books I’ve given capsule profiles in this space wouldn’t exist were it not for this book and its author, so it had to be covered.

It’s certainly very informative. And it’s not written in jargon or anything of the sort. It’s just not exactly pleasant to try and read. Quite an accomplishment to make it through and you’ll be all the better for it, but I would point you towards the others – and more I’ll talk about later – if you want a more accessible entry point into behavioral science.

I’m glad I finished it. I can just keep it on my shelf and point to it now!