Cognitively elevated to the power of two
The Big choices, we need to give careful thought to how the choices are presented to them, lest they make predictably irrational choices.
Kahneman was awarded the 2002 Nobel prize in economics for decades of work on prospect theory, human biases and cognitive illusions. His 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow, helped to popularise many of his (and Tversky’s) most seminal insights. Like Lewis’s work, it is both highly readable and very lucid — the two by no means always go together. It’s key maxim is that the human brain is ‘‘a machine for jumping to conclusions’’ — the ‘‘fast’’ mode — and that it often jumps to strangely erroneous conclusions because of certain hardwired biases that must be very consciously and deliberately corrected for if we want to avoid such errors — the “slow” thinking part.
Tversky was widely regarded as the more brilliant of the two. It used to be said there was something called the Tversky Intelligence Test: ‘‘The faster you realised that Tversky was smarter than you, the smarter you were.’’ But he and Kahneman developed their ideas like two master duelling banjo players, bouncing insights and hypotheses off one another and spending so much time in one another’s company that it was almost as if they were lovers. It was a classic intellectual friendship.
Both were Israeli and their casts of mind and intellectual preoccupations were wonderfully representative of a Jewish intellectual culture that has generated so many first-class minds in the modern era. Neither was religious.
Tversky was born in Haifa, in the British Mandate of Palestine, in 1937, but grew to adulthood in the besieged state of Israel. He received his undergraduate education at the Hebrew