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Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2006
In this volume Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky gathered together 35 authoritative papers that demonstrate through well-designed experiments and through observation the hard-wired biases and heuristics that influence (or define) the way humans go about making choices when the outcomes are from certain.

There are a raft of biases, and just one example is the Anchoring Effect. If you asked 100 people to guess the population of Turkey, what you'd probably get is a wide range of answers. If you broke the question into two parts: first by asking whether the population is higher or lower than 14 million - and then by asking the respondents to guess the population - you'd find that the answers would gravitate around our arbitrary 14 million mark.

The Heuristics we use to weigh up and evaluate data provide a second family of biases. Here, the human brain is shown to go about problem evaluation along certain pathways and shortcuts, and the route we take tends to define where we'll emerge. By way of example, we tend to give undue weight to highly retrievable or available data: and treat this as representative. So in the wake of Katrina, you or I would be fairly excused for judging 2005 as a particularly bad year for global weather-related disasters. In probability, 2005 was not particularly unusual on a global scale.

This volume is an important collection of papers, with relevance to anyone working in fields where decision-making is at the core. You might be in market research, medicine, social sciences, economics or other fields: this book contains material of direct relevance to your work. The conclusions from the papers range from disturbing (the judgments of professional medical and psychological experts, we see, can be alarmingly biased!) through to illuminating.

Just as gamblers feel sure that after throwing six heads in a row, the coin is "overdue" to throw tails (as if coins have a memory) even professionals have an amazing propensity to run roughshod over their own understanding of probability.

This book makes for serious reading and delivers good value. It makes an absorbing, more focused twin-volume with CHOICES, VALUES & FRAMES which I'd say, however, is a more important book that encompasses much of the thinking here. I've take a star off here because some papers are written not in plain English but rather in densely mathematical language. I work in statistics, but our English language is quite adequate for the task of telling the story, isn't it? For this reason readers of this volume will appreciate the incredibly readable, yet hugely informative, volume "The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making" by Scott Plous. I refer frequently to both these volumes and find both extremely useful.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2004
Of course, my humble opinion relative to Nobel award committee will hold little intrinsic value, other than a layman's interpretation and application.
An economist myself, I found this book very interesting and educational to read. Although the book is quite verbose, the fluidity and organization of the content facilitates a smooth read - not a bludgeoning of the mind.
I found this book particularly applicable to research in market behavior, systemic analysis (because this book outlines the individuals and how they act within the system); even policy development (uncertainty).
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology, social psychology, economics, policy, and politics.
Regards,
Tyler Markowsky
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2008
Before seeing this collection, I had been excited by what I knew of these researchers' work in uncovering surprising aspects of human decision-making. And I was initially thrilled to be given this book as a gift. But at this point, though my opinion of their lifetime body of work is unchanged, there are other sources on the topic that I'd recommend first.

Many of the chapters have a didactic, laborious tone. The various authors seem only partially aware of what one another are saying; material has a way of resurfacing in slightly modified form, making one unsure whether seeing a new finding or a restatement of an earlier one. The many lessons drawn, which individually often seem brilliant, never quite coalesce. I found material a little harder to retain than in other books on judgment and uncertainty.

Three chapters that were especially lively and readable were Robyn Dawes' "The Robust Beauty of Improper Linear Models in Decision Making"; Baruch Fischhoff's piece on hindsight; and John Cohen et al.'s chapter on compound probability and sequential choices.

I would recommend the collection as an important resource for a serious student of the topic. Others would probably learn more and derive more enjoyment from Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness or from one of the non-technical books by Gerd Gigerenzer or Daniel Ariely.
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91 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 1998
I've never seen better explanations of how probabilities should be calculated. And the book is fascinating -- especially what the authors describe about the results of surveys designed to reveal the most common mistakes people make when estimating probabilities.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2009
...and especially for the non-thinking person! This book, a popular classic for the past 25 years, opened my eyes to the prevalence and scope of biases in our thinking. The authors take great care to identify and define biases using rigorous, scientific measurements. Their experiments to uncover various types of biases are as fascinating as the end results. There were many occasions when I remembered or referenced this book in the last two decades. I have also recommended this book many times to anyone who expressed even a whiff of interest in decision-making, the workings of the human mind, psychology, etc.

In fact, I think an abbreviated version of this would be perfect at the high school level. Some of these experiments (or a carefully modified version of them) can be performed by high school students, and it would be invaluable in teaching them (a) how to design experiments to uncover even abstract and subjective thinking patterns, (b) the prevalence and scope of biases, and (c) the power of the scientific method in general.

Our schools most likely will not follow my recommendation (probability = 0.98). So, if you have a child in junior year or older and is 'intellectual' in outlook, or has expressed any interest in philosophy, psychology, law, etc., I strongly recommend that you give this book as a gift.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2011
The lessons here are so profound, so sweeping, and so upsetting that even progressive, radical and philanthopic movements generally only vaguely recognize them.

With detailed studies, this book spells out real trouble for humankind, because it demonstrates that even experts -- in a variety of fields -- don't understand quite simple issues about probability and risk.

Even as someone who spent years managing and running projects in a NASA research center, the incapacity wasn't apparent to me, because we invest too much faith in experts' mastery of their field, and not enough questioning the essential abilities that they found their opinions upon.

Potentially one of the most important books ever written.
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on March 30, 2014
I purchased and read this about five years ago. It is probably the most influential book I have ever read. It spawned an interest in a number of related books and on thinking in general. It is scholarly articles, but I found it to be quite readable--just a lot of detail. I agree with the reviewer who wished for a version aimed toward high school students.
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on October 7, 2013
If you read only one book on behavioral decision making, this is it. Thinking Fast and Slow is the abbreviated version. This is the original.
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on August 15, 2013
It is one of the must reads in this subject. I used it mostly during my years in the finance when constructing portfolios. You need to think on some of the subjects very carefully before acting. Oner ayan
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on January 19, 2015
Good book.
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