*Thinking, Fast and Slow*, by Daniel Kahneman

by on October 12, 2011 at 11:36 am in Books, Science | Permalink

It is a very good book, clearly written, engaging yet sober, substantive in every chapter, and it does not oversell its material.  If you are familiar with the underlying papers you will not see much new here, but as a readable introduction to the work of Kahneman (and Tversky) I give it an A or A+.

It is evident throughout that the author is a psychologist and not an economist; your mileage may vary, but you will not find a response to John List in here.  Here is a bit about those unreliable judges, this time in Germany rather than Israel:

The power of random anchors has been demonstrated in some unsettling ways.  German judges with an average of more than fifteen years of experience on the bench first read a description of a woman who had been caught shoplifting, then rolled a pair of dice that were loaded so every roll resulted in either a 3 or a 9.  As soon as the dice came to a stop, the judges were asked whether they would sentence the woman to a term in prison greater or lesser, in months, than the number showing on the dice.  Finally, the judges were instructed to specify the exact prison sentence they would give to the shoplifter.  On average, those who had rolled a 9 said they would sentence her to 8 months; those who rolled a 3 said they would sentence here to 5 months; the anchoring effect was 50%.

You can pre-order the book here; it is due out October 25th.

1 Mario Rizzo October 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I am now reading a fascinating book that questions the claim (of Kahneman and others) that the susceptibility of agents to framing ought to be considered a violation of “rationality.” It is “Ambiguity and Logic” by the philosopher Frederic Schick. I think it is a useful and penetrating antidote to Kahneman’s work.

2 Bill October 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

You might want to read the collection of experimental studies supporting Kahnemann, including primate studies. Check out the book Neronomics.

3 Bill October 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Neuronomics. Damn iPad.

4 tkehler October 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Perhaps you should work on your typing, Bill. There’s no book that I can find at Amazon that matches “Neuronomics”. Is the author Glimcher?

5 Bill October 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Yes. Glimcher. Compete title, if you want it, is something like Foundations of Neuroeconomics. Used in grad seminars as textbook. Good reading and very good collection of authors and research studies. Ties behavioral Econ work into brain research as well.

6 Bill October 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Went to Amazon for correct title (am on vacation so cant grab book) aand it is Neuroeconomcs : Decisionmaking and the Brain.

7 Bill October 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Here’s a link to the opening chapter http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~knutson/bad/glimcher08.pdf

8 Cliff October 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I think you might be missing the point of the OP, which is not to cast doubt on the studies but on the conclusions with regard to rational behavior.

9 Mario Rizzo October 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm

This is absolutely the case with Schick’s book.

10 dj October 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm

How is it possible to have two dice weighted so that when you roll them, the outcome is always 3 or 9? I don’t see how it can be done.

11 JWatts October 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm

That’s a very good question. I think it would be impossible unless they were using two sets of dice or the dice weren’t 6 sided. One set weighted for 3 and the other for 9.

12 JWatts October 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

To clarify that last bit, assuming you used six sided dice, you would need two different pairs with one set weighted to come up 3 and the other weighted to come up 9.

13 Jonathan October 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Of course, the only way two dice can only have two results are to make one die invariant. For example, one die in which every face is a 3 and another die in which half the faces are 3 and half the faces are 6.

14 msgkings October 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm

If you’re going to mess around with making crazy dice, why not just roll 1 die with 3 faces reading ‘3’ and the other 3 reading ‘9’?

15 Michael B. Sullivan October 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm

That would produce 6s and 9s, not 3s and 9s. Dj is correct, you can’t have a single pair of dice that are weighted to always produce 3 or 9 (assuming six-siders), since the only way to produce 3 is 1 & 2, while none of the ways to produce 9 involve either 1s or 2s (ie, 6 & 3, 4 & 5).

16 Michael B. Sullivan October 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Presumably, then, some judges got weighted dice that produced only 3s and, the other judges got weighted dice that produced only 9s.

17 burger flipper October 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm

how much you pull in a month from Amazon referral links?

18 msgkings October 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm

How much do you pull in a month from being a dick to bloggers? I guess not enough to quit flipping burgers.

19 burgerflipper October 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Do em both out of love.

20 Tom October 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I wonder if the prosecutor uses over charging as an anchor to bump up the chance of getting a conviction on at least one item.

21 Kirill October 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm

This review is about as helpful as the back cover.

22 Ian Leslie October 13, 2011 at 4:40 am

Nassim Taleb describes it as “in the same league as The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud”. What does this tell us about Taleb?

23 burger flipper October 13, 2011 at 10:05 am

That he blurbs his buddies.
Cowen is one hell of a source for books, but I hope likewise you remember this tendency when he blurbs those in his blogosphere (sometimes here, sometimes on their actual books)

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