Skip to main content

Gut Feelings - Gerd Gigerenzer *****

Although this book dates back to 2007 (it was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize in 2008), the information within doesn’t seem dated. Psychologist and behavioural expert Gerd Gigerenzer has written a number of books about risk and probability in recent years, and while this book has some of that, this book is focused on the secrets of fast and effective decision making. That is not to say that it is a self-help book, but rather a description, based on neurological and psychological research, of how the brain uses heuristics in order to make decisions with limited information, though readers will find much of the information useful when thinking about decisions.
Gigerenzer explains how intuition works in easy to understand terminology and also uses numerous examples throughout the book to illustrate how intuition is the basis for decision making, such as how we are able to catch a ball without conducting calculations of its speed or distance. 
In short, Gigerenzer describes the processes of 'system 1' to use the terminology from Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. Interestingly, Gigerenzer takes issue with the ‘Linda is a bank teller’ puzzle that Kahneman and Tversky used to illustrate the ‘conjunction fallacy’. Gigerenzer argues, very effectively and persuasively, that such logical puzzles are ‘content blind' as they ignore the content and goals of thinking, and that our intelligence has developed to operate in an uncertain world and not the artificial certainty of a logical system. In any event, it is the first persuasive and rigorous counter argument to many of the premises of Thinking Fast and Slow that I have come across.
In another chapter, Gigerenzer discusses the ‘string heuristic’ ideas as related to how people choose which party or politician to vote for. Basically, voters arrange the complexity of the political landscape to one dimension: left-Right. They then arrange the parties like pearls on a string and, by picking the up the string at one’s ideal point, the voters arrange their preferences for other parties. I found this idea quite fascinating and an excellent explanation of when polls show how voters move between parties that are not close to each other ideologically; the parties may be close on the given issue that the voter has based his decision on.
Gigerenzer has written an excellent book and has a real talent for using examples and terminology that make these interesting ideas accessible for the everyday reader. If you’re interested in risk, probability, logic and how our brains weigh such things, and how we are more astute than we think we are, then this is a top quality read.
Paperback:  
Kindle:  
Review by Ian Bald

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

De/Cipher - Mark Frary ****

I was a little doubtful when I first saw this book. Although it has the intriguing tagline 'The greatest codes ever invented and how to crack them' the combination of a small format hardback and gratuitous illustrations made me suspect it would be a lightweight, minimal content, Janet and John approach to codes and ciphers. Thankfully, in reality Mark Frary manages to pack a remarkable amount of content into De/Cipher's slim form.

Not only do we get some history on and instructions to use a whole range of ciphers, there are engaging little articles on historical codebreakers and useful guidance on techniques to break the simpler ciphers. The broadly historical structure takes the reader through basic alphabetic manipulation, keys, electronic cryptography, one time pads and so on, all the way up to modern public key encryption and a short section on quantum cryptography. 

We even get articles on some of the best known unsolved ciphers, such as the Dorabella and the Voynich ma…

Paul McAuley - Four Way Interview

Paul McAuley won the Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel and has gone on to win the Arthur C. Clarke, British Fantasy, Sidewise and John W. Campbell Awards. He gave up his position as a research biologist to write full-time. He lives in London. His latest novel is Austral.


Why science fiction?

For one thing, I fell in love with science fiction at an early age, and haven’t yet fallen out of love with it (although I have flirted with other genres). For another, we’re living in an increasingly science-fictional present. Every day brings headlines that could have been ripped from a science-fiction story. Giant robot battle: Who knew a duel between chainsaw-armed mech suits could be so boring? for instance. Or, Roy Orbison hologram to embark on UK tour in 2018. And looming above all this, like Hokusai’s famous wave, are the ongoing changes caused by global warming and climate change, which is just one consequence of human activity having become the dominant force of change on the planet…

Karl Drinkwater - Four Way Interview

Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester, but has lived in Wales half his life. He is a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics and Information Science. When he isn't writing, he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake and zombies - not necessarily in that order. His latest novel is Lost Solace.

Why science fiction?

My favourite books have always been any form of speculative fiction. As a child I began with ghost stories, which were the first books to make me completely forget I was reading. By my teenage years I was obsessed with fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Although I read literary and contemporary books, non-fiction, historical works, classics and so on, it is speculative fiction that I return to when I want escape and wonder. When I read reviews of my last book, the fast-paced novella Harvest Fe…