If you only ever read one psychology book in your life, it should be “Thinking Fast and Slow” by the brilliant Daniel Kahneman.
In my third year of uni I took the most incredible cognitive psychology class about judgement and decision making, which in my opinion is one of the most fascinating areas of psychology. As my favourite lecturer used to say in our statistics lectures; “Humans are ridiculous.” This is no more obvious than when looking at the way we make decisions. Humans are biased and illogical. We try to make sense out of situations that are completely senseless. We miss insanely obvious things, like a tree disappearing. We put incredible weights on the likelihoods of unlikely situations if they are fresh in our memories. “Thinking Fast and Slow” brings so many of these things to light and really makes you consider the way that you naturally approach the world.
The book starts by introducing two “characters”, as you may; System 1 and System 2.
System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with very little effort and no sense of voluntary control. For example, adding 2 + 2 is a System 1 process. We don’t think about the answer, we just answer it.
System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, such as complex calculations. These operations are often associated with subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration. Think about multiplying 34 x 673 in your head. Not so easy is it?
I lent a friend my original copy a few years ago (and gave up on getting it back) and although I have bought it as a present for quite a few people, I have not had my own since. However, in my internet shopping craziness, I finally got my act together and got myself a new copy.
I’m totally psyched.