Our lazy brains

Mini-column Alison in Wonderland, published in the Observant, Maastricht

Now and then, an intellectual heavyweight will write a weighty bestseller that we all have to read to keep up with the hip academic crowd. Thinking, fast and slow is one of those books. Written by the Nobel laureate and Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman, it basically says our minds have two systems. One is slow and deliberate; the other fast, intuitive and lazy. Consider: A bat and ball cost $1 and 10 cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? The obvious – and wrong – answer is 10 cents. This is our fast system, coming up with the answer needing the least mental effort. Can’t face all 499 pages of the book? Helpfully, The New Yorker summed it up last week in an article called ‘Why smart people are stupid’.

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