Thursday, August 30, 2012

Be a Nerd, or Just Read Like One

Okay, that may be a bit harsh. I love to read books about information science and books about behavioral economics. The most fun comes in finding the intersection of these two fields of study. I just finished reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman is the Nobel Prize-winning Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. That being said, do not expect this to be an easy, breezy light read. Although Kahneman uses personal storytelling and descriptions of interesting experiments designed to demonstrate how people actually make decisions, the content is still pretty deep.

 Kahneman’s hypothesis is that the mind wants to conserve energy and look for short-cuts for decision making. In other words, people’s thinking often jumps to the obvious solution rather than the more sensible or valid solution to life’s problems. He illustrates this with various scenarios in which he gives subjects the opportunity to make a well-informed choice, but they chose to make the apparently obvious choice, one that is typically influenced by the way the information was presented or by how the question was posed.

His point is that we all do it. His conclusions become a cautionary tale about fully engaging our minds as we make decisions. There is much to be learned from this book.

If you enjoy books about behavioral economics, you might also be interested in books by Dan Ariely. His books, Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality also provide accessible insights into our often lazy psyches. And, if you want to read the ultimate book on information science, it just might be The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick. Start reading titles like these and you too may join the cult of the Library Nerd.
Review by Pat

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