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Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious Paperback – June 24, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
Since I find his scientific works most intriguing, I think that this specific book is apt to be most interesting for readers. It deals with a subject relevant to the recent best seller "The Black Swan." It makes for a nice comparison to read both volumes. Both authors speak to the poor record, for example, of stock analysts in predicting what stocks do well and what do not do well. However, their analyses march in different directions.
The dusk jacket notes the central focus of the work: "How does intuition work? What lies behind our moral behavior if not reflection and reasoning? How can simple `rules of thumb' help amateurs beat the stock market, outfielders catch a fly ball, parents choose a school, or lovers choose a mate?"
The main argument of the author is that the evolutionary process has led humans to develop "rules of thumb" or "heuristics" that tend to lead to efficient decision making processes. Does statistical analysis give better results than heuristics? Not necessarily, says the author.
What are these "shortcuts"? For instance, what if you are in a decision making situation and you need to respond to someone who may cause you problems or cooperate with you? The evidence suggests the value of a specific game with rules. As Gigerenzer puts it (page 62):
"(1) Cooperate first, (2) keep a memory of size one, and (3) imitate your partner's last behavior."
In plain English: If you are in competition with someone, at first cooperate. If they cooperate, you would continue cooperating.Read more ›
A neuroscientist consulting with a major car manufacturer showed them a way to develop a very simple proximity sensor based on the nervous system of a locust. When locusts swarm, they somehow avoid bumping into each other. It turns out that the circuit involves only four neurons. But saves the locusts - and weekend motorists - an ocean of hurt.
The cricketer, the baseball player and the locust represent three examples of ways in which the nervous system uses simple rules to allow us to functions in complex situations. If we had to use all of our brainpower to solve every problem we would never get out of bed.
Gerd Gigerenzer is a well-known and influential figure in neuroscience: he directs the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Plank Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. He is a superb presenter who is much in demand at major international conferences and he has won numerous awards including the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Behavioral Science Research. He is also the author of the seminal work: ...Read more ›
So why not five stars?
Because the book peaks in the first two chapters as Gerd Gigerenzer (truly one of the all-time great author names) very clearly explains his insight to you using the fascinating concept of how humans catch a fly ball. (Hint: it isn't by doing all sorts of subconscious calculations about speed and trajectory)
From there on out, it's just one example after another of the same concept. By chapter four, when new examples get introduced, you're already projecting out exactly how people traditionally view it and how Gigerenzer's research shows things actually work. The good news is that shows Gigerenzer is a good teacher; the bad news is that the book is clearly too long.
So I'd highly recommend this first two or three chapters of this book to learn about Gigerenzer's very interesting, counter-intuitive and well-explained insight. As soon as you feel like you get the idea, though, I'd move on to your next book - you won't be missing any new ideas.
What is intuition, and where do we get it? Its very nature makes it elusive. Gigerenzer's contribution is to try to answer these hard questions.
The archetype is the fielder chasing a fly ball. A logical solution would require an intricate calculation of speed, distance, motion, and trajectory. No time. So the fielder applies an instinctive rule that he has learned from having chased thousands of fly balls: "keep the ball at a constant bearing from yourself". (Mariners, by the way, apply the rule consciously: a moving ship at constant bearing will hit you.) It works.
Such rules of thumb work in millions of other applications, from the mundane ("pick the stocks of companies you recognize") to the potentially deadly (heart attack or heartburn? Five simple one-at-a-time questions will yield a more reliable answer than a 50-variable formula that tries to account for everything).
Intuition is simply the mind filling in blanks. It has learned to do this from a combination of evolution and experience. For example, thousand of years of evolution have fixed in our minds that most light comes from above. Therefore, when we view circles drawn on a flat sheet, top-shaded circles appear as indentations, bottom-shaded circles appear as pop-outs.
Experience has taught us that brands we recognize are better quality than brands we don't. That rule is imperfect. Advertisers have learned to exploit it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Started off okay but then became repetitive and I got bored.Published 11 days ago by Leonard A Savage
Interesting and more readable than the Institute's ABC group's more intense and statistical works. Supplier shipped promptly and as described quality.Published 2 months ago by robert m shannon
The book is tackling a subject that has puzzled us for millennia. How can we ever be sure about a decision given limited information and most importantly limited time to respond. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ioannis (Yiannis) Mikedis
This book was recommended to me by a friend who knows I am passionate about understanding how the brain works. Read morePublished 14 months ago by S. J. Gerras
A great discussion of the power of intuition and how it has shaped politics, history and us. A fascinating and good read.Published 15 months ago by spsanders