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Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious Paperback – June 24, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Gigerenzer's theories about the usefulness of mental shortcuts were a small but crucial element of Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller Blink, and that attention has provided the psychologist, who is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, the opportunity to recast his academic research for a general audience. The key concept—rules of thumb serve us as effectively as complex analytic processes, if not more so—is simple to grasp. Gigerenzer draws on his own research as well as that of other psychologists to show how even experts rely on intuition to shape their judgment, going so far as to ignore available data in order to make snap decisions. Sometimes, the solution to a complex problem can be boiled down to one easily recognized factor, he says, and the author uses case studies to show that the Take the Best approach often works. Gladwell has in turn influenced Gigerenzer's approach, including the use of catchy phrases like the zero-choice dinner and the fast and frugal tree, and though this isn't quite as snappy as Blink, well, what is? Closing chapters on moral intuition and social instincts stretch the central argument a bit thin, but like the rest will be easily absorbed by readers. Illus. (July 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Trust your hunches, for intuition does have an underlying rationale, according to this accessible account from a German scientist of human cognition. Permeated with everyday scenarios, such as picking stocks, schools, or spouses, the book adopts an evolutionary perspective of how people act on the basis of incomplete information (usually successfully). He sets the table with an example of a baseball player pursuing a fly ball, who relies not on conscious calculation but on an evolved "gaze heuristic" to make the catch. Definitions of such rules of thumb dot the text, which Gigerenzer embeds amid his presentations of studies that indicate, for example, that financial analysts don't predict markets any better than partially informed amateurs. Explaining this as an outcome of a "recognition heuristic," Gigerenzer argues that knowing a little rather than everything about something is sufficient to take action on it. He forges on into medicine, law, and moral behavior, succeeding in the process in converting a specialized topic into a conduit for greater self-awareness among his readers. Taylor, Gilbert --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
- Explains in layman terms how gut feelings work with reference to the findings of scientific research
- Confirms intuition as a proven legitimate problem solving tool for men and women
- Demonstrates how we are hard-wired to resolve problems with simple rules of thumb that have evolved and been shaped by our environment
- Explains how these simple rules of thumb help us grapple with an unpredictable future and how they prevail over rational deliberation and hindsight
This is an easy read in short chapters and when I finish this book I'm very inclined to buy other books by this author.
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.
Gigerenzer points out that the standard rebuttal is wrong. A baseball player couldn't hope to gather and process all the information about the flight of a ball in real time, even approximately. Instead they use what he calls the gaze heuristic: 'fix your eyes on the ball and adjust your running speed so that your angle of vision to the ball remains constant.' The interesting thing about the gaze heuristic is that it ignores virtually all of the information about the ball's flight and focuses on just one piece of information: your angle of vision relative to the ball. But that single piece of information is enough to reliably let people catch a ball.
That in a nutshell is the concept of bounded rationality. Once you factor in the cost of gathering and processing information it becomes extremely irrational to make decisions by solving differential equations. Heuristics (AKA rules of thumb) are the way to go. They give you a lot more bang for your information-processing buck. Here is the truly radical part of Gigerenzer's book. If you were to simply claim that heuristics allow people to make decisions that are almost as good on vastly less information then I doubt many modern social scientists would disagree. But in fact Gigerenzer shows that heuristics can outperform the information-greedy favorites of the social sciences like multiple regression analysis and neural networks with back propagation.
Another really nice thing about this book is that Gigerenzer is a very good writer with a very light touch. You will not find the heavy and ponderous writing that you normally expect from scholars. This book is an easy and fast read that belongs on the shelf of everyone interested in politics and the social sciences. You may also want to consider The Bounds of Reason: Game Theory and the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences (you can easily and profitably skip over the math).
Are we really that flawed that in order to figure out which pizza to order you need to do multiple regression analysis?
Or do we survive (and have for millennia) because we are part of the order of things, and as such, have innately within us, the correct mechanisms to figure out things.
Or, are these mechanisms outdated in Modern society?
Gigerenzer makes a very compelling argument for, not against, Heuristics.
We are not flawed beyond repair in our thinking process.
But maybe some that espouse 'biases' are.
We do not have (or need) a computer-like brain, or worse, have a moral dictate to be an efficient being (even when such an attempt actually makes us less efficient!)
This is an identical review to Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart (Evolution and Cognition Series) (Hardcover)
I read both, either one or both work, up to you.
Most recent customer reviews
so much so.Read more