of books by Daniel Kahneman

DANIEL KAHNEMAN is senior scholar and professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and winner of the 2002 Nobel prize in economics (with Vernon Smith) "for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty"

Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013

I list this book under science literacy for one particular reason, Kahneman's description of the 'small numbers bias' that we all share, including scientists who have an affect heuristics, i.e., believe they know the validity of statistical claims even if most of us do not, in fact, understand it. Literacy, and particular science literacy is more than science trivia (which by itself is a hugh thing), but often means an understanding of the scientific method. Statistics is a branch of science that allows the separation of random events from non-random ones, possibly indicating causation beween two variables. Kahneman's explanation of small numbers, how often we intuitively misinterpret them, and how often they seem extreme (i.e. not random) is a must read. The erroneous importance we give to extreme outcomes from small samples (e.g. high rates of cancers in sparsely populated areas) is of particular interest as it can be shown to be an artifact of sampling (sampling error) rather than an extraordinary event.


January 4, 2014 /  © 2014 Lukas K. Buehler / go back to Book Review Home