Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
This isn't a review of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. It's a re-view of quotations from the book, which makes sobering observations about how the mind works. In his first novel, V, Thomas Pynchon wrote: "life's single lesson: that there is more accident to it than a man can ever admit to in a lifetime and stay sane." Kahneman reads like an extended commentary on that thought.
"Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance."
"Most of us view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they really are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be. We also tend to exaggerate our ability to forecast the future, which fosters optimistic overconfidence."
"We are pattern seekers, believers in a coherent world. We are prone to exaggerate the consistency and coherence of what we see...the tendency to see patterns in randomness is overwhelming."
"Our thoughts and our behavior are influenced, much more than we know or want, by the environment of the moment."
"Emotion now looms much larger in our understanding of intuitive judgements and choices than it did in the past...you think with your body, not only with your brain."
He says we don't remember the past. We remember coherent stories we made up about what happened, which we call "memories."
"Memories trump the experience. Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me."
"Flawed stories of the past shape our views of the world and our expectations for the future."
"Caring for people often takes the form of concern for the quality of their stories, not for their feelings."
"It is not inconceivable, as it was not even a few years ago, than an index in the amount of suffering in society will someday be included in national statistics, along with measures of unemployment, physical disability, and income."
For this and other changes to come about, Kahneman says - insists, actually - people need to know how to make better decisions.
"Decision makers are sometimes better able to imagine the voices of present gossipers and future critics than to hear the hesitant voice of their own doubts. They will make better choices when they trust their critics to be sophisticated and fair, and when they expect their decision to be judged by how it was made, not only by how it turned out."
"You know far less about yourself than you feel you do."