How do we make decisions? Are they based on rational grounds, such as collecting evidence, crunching numbers, weighing all options, and considering objectively a range of views? Or are they really based on gut instinct, intuition, or on past experiences that may or may not bear on the problem at hand? In this readable survey, C. Gates explores such questions, focusing on the role of the subconscious in the decisions that we make every day.
Relying on the research of psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, Gates divides our decision-making processes into two systems: “System 1” is intuitive, unconscious, fast acting and effortless. “System 2” is rational, conscious, deliberate, slower than System 1, and susceptible to fatigue. While many people think that their decisions are based on the discursive, rational System 2, in fact the intuitive System 1 is often in control – and in ways that are elusive.
Gates exposes the tricks System 1 plays on us. The author demystifies the “cognitive illusions” that are the intellectual equivalent of optical illusions. For example, Gates discusses how we often allow stereotypes to supply the information about a person that we may lack, or how we substitute a data set that is inapt but available, in place of the right data set that is harder to obtain. Gates explores not only the particular heuristics that tend to fool us but also why it is so hard to change them. Objective, “statistical thinking,” concludes Gates, “does not come naturally.”
Full of anecdotes and snippets from revealing psychological experiments, Gates’s work is no dry philosophical tome. It is written in a popular style and will be accessible to a wide audience. Readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s work, especially his popular book Blink, are likely to find Gates’s work a breezy, thought-provoking read.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.