His 2011 book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is really all about human irrationality. Why and how we make decisions and why we tend to continually make bad ones. It is an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently scary. Gee, we do the dumbest things for the dumbest reasons.
He simplifies matters for us by dividing our thinking mind into two sides: System 2 is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful [YES, it’s a word. I looked it up.] mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)
The book, and his astounding career of more than 40 decades, covers in depth cognitive biases, prospect theory, and hedonic psychology –which is the science of happiness, its nature and its causes. Detailed, and wonderfully fun, it is everything you have ever wanted to know about why we are idiots but were too embarrassed to ask. I’m not giving you any more of it. Put down that zombie apocalypse book and go read it yourself. You’ll be glad you did.