How slow is your thinking?

“This is one of the greatest and most engaging collections of insights into the human mind that I have read,” said William Easterly in the Financial Times.  Quite a recommendation, and thankfully it spurred me to find out more about the “father of behavioural economics”, Nobel Prize winner and “greatest psychologist and deepest thinker of our time” according to Harvard’s Professor of Psychology.  The man in question is Daniel Kahneman, and his latest book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is proving to be quite a read.

I’m still working through it, but I thought you might like a flavour of some of the concepts he explores, all of which have got me revisiting many of the established norms in my dull old brain.  They stem from the basic premise that the mind is divided into two systems.  System 1 makes fast, intuitive decisions based on memory, vivid images and emotional reactions, and System 2 makes slower, conscious, effortful decisions, often more rational but frequently overridden by System 1.  This leads to:

1.  The Halo effect.  We assume that if someone is good at something they will be good at lots of things.

2.  Loss aversion.  We dislike losing something far more than we like gaining something of the equivalent size.

3.  Judges’ tendency to grant parole straight after lunch but then to refuse it as they get hungrier during the afternoon.

4.  We choose things based on memories, not experiences.  Many decisions are based on anticipated memories.  How weird is that?

5.  Finally, for now (I do hope this is making you want to find out more), how about this one:  we have an Experiencing Self and a Remembering Self.  Decisions are based on the Remembering Self, which often recalls what happened at the end of the experience.  In this lecture on TED,  Kahneman shows an experiment in which patients monitored their pain levels during a colostomy operation.  One patient suffered more pain because his operation lasted twice as long.  However the patient who suffered less recalls it as being more painful because his operation finished on a pain “high”: no slow reduction in pain.  If they had left a tube in there for longer doing not much with it, his recall of the experience would be that it was less painful.  Here’s the link to

The riddle of experience versus memory

Fascinating stuff, and I am resolved to weave this thinking into my training during 2012.  I see huge relevance for Influencing, Sales, Negotiation and of course Coaching, and can’t wait to grapple further with it.

Meanwhile, buy yourself an early Christmas present and get this book.  you’re in for a rare treat.  If you need any more persuading, let me try you on one last recommendation:

“For anyone interested in economics, cognitive science, psychology, and, in short, human behavior, this is the book of the year. Before Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics, there was Daniel Kahneman who invented the field of behavior economics, won a Nobel…and now explains how we think and make choices. Here’s an easy choice: read this.” (The Daily Beast )


About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
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3 Responses to How slow is your thinking?

  1. MysteryCoach says:

    Oooh… I LIKE THIS BOOK! 🙂 Number 4 makes perfect sense. To me the person is avoiding pain in the future by making a same or similar mistake which the subconscious mind remembers, however not vividly. BUT is triggered by the current event. Just a thought 🙂


  2. Dave Loewy says:

    Great stuff. I must get his book. I’m sure you’ve already seen these two book which I also recommend: Daniel Ariely with “Predictably Irrational”, which is very good on behavioural economics; while David Rock with “Your Brain at Work”, offers all sorts of insights into brain factors which affect business. David Rock’s book in particular has some nice simple models which can be considered whenever you communicate or interact at work or at home.


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