Having trouble sleeping? May I recommend a good book that has helped me fall asleep many nights over the last few weeks, ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. His purpose is to help improve the quality of judgments and decisions that are made by people and organizations. Curiosity has kept me coming back to read each chapter in order to better understand our thinking and decision making processes. He asks two rather simple math questions to illustrate an interesting concept. The first question is to calculate 17x23? Secondly, if a bat and ball together cost $1.10 and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, what is the cost of the ball? Most of us require a pencil and paper to answer the first question but instantly answer $.10 to the second question. Even after we calculate the first answer to be 391 we would hesitate to bet $20 with certainty fearing we may have made a mistake. Yet we would have no second thoughts about betting $100 on our answer to the second question. Kahneman suggests we have two distinct thinking processes, one fast and one slow. When asked a difficult multiplication question we use our slow thinking to work through the process and come up with the answer. However, the fast thinking loves the simple obvious questions. The problem, however, is the fast brain is not always right! But it is fast, confident, arrogant and leaves no room for doubt. Please go back to the second question and read it again. Most of us still answer $.10 but a simple check would reveal that if the ball cost $.10, the bat would cost $1.10 making the total $1.20! The answer is actually $.05 for the ball, $1.05 for the bat making the total $1.10.
This is not about how smart we are but rather how careful we are to not trust our fast brain for all decisions. If you are walking in the woods and confronted by a bear your fast brain will suggest that you start running! Good idea! Run! Run fast and think about it later. However, when faced with many daily decisions we should be careful to take the time to double check. My youngest daughter has just completed her Drivers Training course and now she is attempting to correct my many bad driving habits. She tells me to stop at all stop signs and wait for three seconds before proceeding. It occurred to me that this is exactly what Kahneman is teaching us to do. Do not trust your fast thinking when it comes to rolling stops and distracted driving. You will not be wrong by five cents, you could be wrong by an accident. With life moving so fast, please allow our slow thinking to keep us safe. School will be starting very soon and we all need to give our full attention to keep our children safe.