“What makes it hard for me to even think of finishing this book is the realization of how stupid we truly are and all that shit applies to me as well and… well… I guess it’s just too depressing to even think about your own limitations, knowing that there is almost nothing you can do about it…” -My friend replied to whether he’d finished the book or not. Two years and a quarter read. Not bad, considering its difficult language and the need to reflect on every sentence and occasionally create flip charts and play along to witness some mental tricks first hand.
Two weeks of constant focus and I reached 150 pages. That lists Thinking, Fast and Slow on top of my high mental effort books list, just slightly higher than Jung’s Dreams, Memories, Reflections and right below anything I ever tried to read in Swedish. Jung used to lead the list, because It. All. Made. Sense. Every paragraph I read twice or thrice, for it brought flashbacks and resurfaced memories to reflect on. It was an effort that paid off.
Kahneman is leading that list now. Before thinking of “Thinking, fast and slow” I didn’t know there even was a list.
I felt happy to see through some of the brain teasers he gives, and entertained to flunk the rest.
We are blind to statistics and too much guided by our feelings. Our judgments to form opinions and to evaluate situations always follow one principle: What you see is all there is. The only ones not to follow this principle are the wise people who acknowledge that they don’t really know anything. A quote by one male Estonian politician suits here the best to describe the principle:
What gender gap? I haven’t felt that there is any problem with that!
He already proved the point. He hadn’t felt it. Estonia has the largest gender gap in salaries in Europe – of course he had not felt it. He’s a man and women suffer with it. Out of sight, out of mind. The more a topic reminds itself to you, the more aware of it you are, the more significant it seems to you, the more grandiose it seems to you, the more statistically relevant it seems to you, the less you are able to grasp the reality. With easy recall it’s important, with hard recall it doesn’t exist. A coin has many sides, but if you’ve only seen one side, you think the both sides are the same. That’s why independent polls before elections have the power to change many people’s votes. They represent the opinion of about 0,1% of the population. A very insignificant selection that might be skewed heavily – if based on landline phone interviews made at 11. am on Mondays, chances are they were all pensioners and support the same party. Therefore, a person who is not necessarily for a party, but is against one party, might decide to vote according to who seems to be the greatest opponent to the party he dislikes. So some parties lose even more votes, because they look so insignificant in this selection – they cannot possibly pass the threshold, my vote would go to trash.
Eventually, politics is all about marketing. It represents best the principle of what you see is all there is. Why, I’m afraid, that Trump might win, is simply that his behaviour just breeds media responses. He is in everyone’s mind. The ones not to think twice choose him because he feels familiar – only because his face, voice and faeces (all the same anyway) are everywhere. Politics is the war of media. Wins the one who is more available. Available in media, available in the minds of people when recalling the candidates. That’s the availability heuristics – judging something to be statistically more significant based on how easy it is to recall it.
Not really masterminds
However bright we are in our comfort zone topics, however bright thinkers we are, our mental slow, analytical processing capacity is limited. We can’t focus on 46×53 and questioning in whether pophorse is a real animal, at the same time. If the analytical process is engaged, we would automatically accept that a pophorse is a real deal.
As Kahneman refers to Daniel Gilbert, our automatic, intuitive thinking system has belief on default. Questioning and not believing something requires trying to believe it to understand it. Only then we will be able to unbelieve it. Unless you’re a skeptic having trained yourself to have “not believing” on default. That’s a rare though.
That’s a thing that refers to intelligence: to not believe some thing said, one must understand it. To understand it, one must deploy analytical thinking. That depletes energy. It uses all your glucose resources.
New diet plan – think more and eat what you want!
The slow thinking process is naturally lazy and even lazier with people who deploy it the least. Therefore, people who always act on first impulses tend to make poorer decisions, unless it’s a decision in one’s field of expertise that has nothing to do with statistics. Who believes everything has not quite understood what he believes. Sadly, we can all fall into this trap easily. Our snap judgments of random stuff we have limited knowledge about are based on feelings. This feels more probable. And stuff feels even more probable or true once you are busy thinking how to fix your car.
In this situation the woman should just say whatever ideas she wants to plant in his mind – he’ll believe it all. It’s the fault in our system that makes us fail at multitasking.
I empathize with my friend. It is depressing to see how easily we can fail with our judgment, yet it is refreshing to learn that with lots of practice, we can become a little more aware of the crap our intuition can produce and become better at spotting the errors we are about to make. Some tricks intuition pulls are unbeatable, but I think it could be a matter to laugh at – holy cow how stupid we are! And we think we own the world!?
Far from it!