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What is your review of Thinking, Fast And Slow (book)?

Posted by Matthias on June 22, 2018

If we were to organize a top10 of the greatest non-fiction books of 2000–2020, I think Thinking, Fast and Slow should make it.

The book was published in 2011, but it’s already a classic, and has dramatically changed the debate in anything related to the social sciences.

It summarizes some of the most interesting insights from the last 50 years of research in cognitive and social psychology, and it makes self-evident how large their effects can be on other fields like economics and politics.

With one exception: the chapter on priming. I’m actually surprised Kahneman included that one, since in 2011 the ground the theory was resting on was already shaky.
Danny himself wrote an open letter about this and related issues just one year later, and confirmed including priming was a mistake in 2017.
Priming is still being cited and used by a large amount of people doing bad science and trying to become famous “pop psychology” figures, “influencers”, marketers, or politically influential activists by pumping up studies that are badly designed and/or failed to replicate. This is why it’s important to underline the mistake and instead make it clear that it’s not-reproducible pseudoscience. See hereherehere and here.
Even the very example made famous by the book, the “watching eye effect”, failed to replicate recently.

Conclusion: it’s a must-read, but skip the chapter on priming.

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