Thinking, Reviewed

If we had to stop scanning hundreds of news sources to support the habit we have of linking to stories that match our interests (we do not plan to stop) and read from only one source on the internet (preposterous to make a point), this site would be a good candidate. We rarely have the opportunity to link to it, because there is not much overlap with our themes of community, conservation or collaboration; but as a source of important ideas, and the occasional book review it is unbeatable:

“The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence but of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct.”

Every year, intellectual impresario and Edgeeditor John Brockman summons some of our era’s greatest thinkers and unleashes them on one provocative question, whether it’s the single most elegant theory of how the world works orthe best way to enhance our cognitive toolkit. This year, he sets out on the most ambitious quest yet, a meta-exploration of thought itself:Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction (public library) collects short essays and lecture adaptations from such celebrated and wide-ranging (though not in gender) minds as Daniel Dennett,Jonathan HaidtDan Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson, covering subjects as diverse as morality, essentialism, and the adolescent brain.

One of the most provocative contributions comes from Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman — author of the indispensable Thinking, Fast and Slow, one of the best psychology books of 2012 — who examines “the marvels and the flaws of intuitive thinking.”

thecreativityquestion_illumination

In the 1970s, Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky, self-crowned “prophets of irrationality,” began studying what they called “heuristics and biases” — mental shortcuts we take, which frequently result in cognitive errors. Those errors, however, reveal a great deal about how our minds work:

If you want to characterize how something is done, then one of the most powerful ways of characterizing how the mind does anything is by looking at the errors that the mind produces while it’s doing it because the errors tell you what it is doing. Correct performance tells you much less about the procedure than the errors do.

Read the whole review here.

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