Kes: I am currently reading this book, and it may turn out to be my favorite nonfiction book of 2011. It's available through Bookshare.org.
Two Brains Running:
A review of
_Thinking, Fast and Slow_
by Daniel Kahneman
review by JIM HOLThttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review
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Such sweeping conclusions, even if they are not endorsed by the author, make me frown. And frowning -- as one learns on Page 152 of this book -- activates the skeptic within us: what Kahneman calls 'System 2. Just putting on a frown, experiments show, works to reduce overconfidence; it causes us to be more analytical, more vigilant in our thinking; to question stories that we would otherwise unreflectively accept as true because they are facile and coherent.
And that is why I frowningly gave this extraordinarily interesting book the most skeptical reading I could.
System 2, in Kahneman's scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase 'bread and. . . . ' It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person's System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)
[Kes: another experiment in which I would love to participate.]
More generally, System 1 uses association and metaphor to produce a quick and dirty draft of reality, which System 2 draws on to arrive at explicit beliefs and reasoned choices. System 1 proposes, System 2 disposes. So System 2 would seem to be the boss, right? In principle, yes. But System 2, in addition to being more deliberate and rational, is also lazy. And it tires easily. (The vogue term for this is 'ego depletion.') Too often, instead of slowing things
down and analyzing them, System 2 is content to accept the easy but unreliable story about the world that System 1 feeds to it. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is,' Kahneman writes, 'the automatic System 1 is the hero of this book. System 2 is especially quiescent, it seems, when your mood is a happy one.
At this point, the skeptical reader might wonder how seriously to take all this talk of System 1 and System 2. Are they actually a pair of little agents in our head, each with its distinctive personality? Not really, says Kahneman. Rather, they are 'useful fictions' -- useful because they help explain the quirks of the human mind.
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The NY Times book section has another, very brief, article on audiobooks which may be of interest:
THE MECHANIC MUSE. The Mind's Ear.
by James Parker
Published: November 25, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/the-minds-ear.html?ref=technology