Monday, December 07, 2020

Thoughts on Lewis's Undoing Project: A psychological analysis illuminating psychological science

I read with great interest Michael Lewis's book called The Undoing Project. The book focuses on a famous partnership between psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky that revolutionized many aspects of psychological science and economics. 

 The book goes through the personal details of their friendship and provides insights into their scientific advances. As a non-psychologist, I was impressed with the intuitive way the book described Kahneman and Tversky's notions. I was particularly taken by how this pair found hidden biases in our decision-making and thinking processes by posing simple numerical challenges. One of these challenges was simply determining the product of multiple numbers and then determining the product with the numbers arranged in reverse. Kahneman and Tversky discovered that people tend to estimate these products differently. Another interesting challenge demonstrated how people estimate the significance of one number being larger than another differently than that of a group of numbers, discounting our greater certainty for a group. In another example, they found that if one flips losses to gains symmetrically, people's choices do not fall symmetrically; rather, people tend to weight gains versus losses quite differently. Finally, Kahneman and Tversky found that people give a much higher weight to a list of people they know or have heard of compared to a list of random names, when given two lists of names. 

Altogether, I found this an interesting book that teaches some simple psychological science concepts while providing an entertaining portrait of two great thinkers. Overall, a good read that I would highly recommend.

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

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