Thinking, Fast and Slow

AuthorReviewed by Major Steven P. Vargo
Pages275-284
2014] BOOK REVIEWS 275
THINKING, FAST AND SLOW1
REVIEWED BY MAJOR STEVEN P. VARGO*
“How many animals of each kind did Moses take into
the ark?”2
I. Introduction
The question is flawed, and if you started computing a number
without recognizing the mistake, you need not be ashamed—you are in
the majority.3 The association between “Moses” and “ark,” though
biblical, is out of context. Noah, not Moses, belongs in the question.
The author of Thinking, Fast and Slow (Thinking), Daniel Kahneman,
helps the reader understand how the mind works by drawing from recent
developments in cognitive and social psychology. He elucidates the
relationship between “fast” (automatic) thinking and “slow” (effortful)
thinking. He explains that “fast” thinking (a product of what he calls
System 1) is the hero of the story but also the source of most thinking
errors. Unfortunately, “slow” thinking (a product of what he calls
System 2), mistakenly believes it is the source of most thought—the real
hero—leading it to persistently neglect its job of correcting the errors of
“fast” thinking by unwittingly accepting these errors as its own
trustworthy productions. The Moses/ark question is an example of a lazy
System 2 failing to check the coherence automatically detected by
System 1. In other words, System 2 does not realize System 1 is
Batman, and its role is that of the dutiful and capable Robin (albeit with a
very sophisticated tool belt).
After roughly a half-century of work as a cognitive psychologist, Mr.
Kahneman is uniquely qualified to write on the human thought process.
Thinking is a scholar’s offering of a thinking book for the general public.
Though at times tedious due to the introduction of unfamiliar
* Judge Advocate, U.S. Army. Student, 62nd Judge Advocate Officer Graduate Course,
The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, U.S. Army, Charlottesville,
Virginia.
1 DANIEL KAHNEMAN, THINKING, FAST AND SLOW (2011).
2 Id. at 73.
3 “The number of people who detect what is wrong with this question is so small that it
has been dubbed the ‘Moses Illusion.’” Id.

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