Thinking, Fast and Slow [NOOK Book]

Overview

The guru to the gurus at last shares his knowledge with the rest of us. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman's seminal studies in behavioral psychology, behavioral economics, and happiness studies have influenced numerous other authors, including Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman at last offers his own, first book for the general public. It is a lucid and enlightening summary of his life's work. It will change ...
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Thinking, Fast and Slow

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Overview

The guru to the gurus at last shares his knowledge with the rest of us. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman's seminal studies in behavioral psychology, behavioral economics, and happiness studies have influenced numerous other authors, including Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman at last offers his own, first book for the general public. It is a lucid and enlightening summary of his life's work. It will change the way you think about thinking.

Two systems drive the way we think and make choices, Kahneman explains: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Examining how both systems function within the mind, Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities as well as the biases of fast thinking and the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and our choices. Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, he shows where we can trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking, contrasting the two-system view of the mind with the standard model of the rational economic agent.

Kahneman's singularly influential work has transformed cognitive psychology and launched the new fields of behavioral economics and happiness studies. In this path-breaking book, Kahneman shows how the mind works, and offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and personal lives--and how we can guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.

From the Hardcover edition.

One of the New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Daniel Kahneman won his Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, but it should surprise no one that his first book on cognitive processes has been eagerly awaited for years. Dr. Kahneman was awarded for his Nobel for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision-making. Steven Pinker, no slouch himself, called him "one of the most influential psychologists in history and certainly the most important psychologist alive today." In this book, Kahneman describes the "machinery of the mind," the two mental systems, one fast and the other slow, that determine our choices and shape our impressions. A breakthrough approach that is both practical and enlightening. A critically acclaimed bestseller; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Jim Holt
…an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently touching…I overconfidently urge everyone to buy and read it.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of thought in this fascinating treatise by a giant in the field of decision research. Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman (Attention and Effort) posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1, he contends, makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so "lazy" and distractible that it usually defers to System 1. Kahneman uses this scheme to frame a scintillating discussion of his findings in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics, and of the ingenious experiments that tease out the irrational, self-contradictory logics that underlie our choices. We learn why we mistake statistical noise for coherent patterns; why the stock-picking of well-paid investment advisers and the prognostications of pundits are worthless; why businessmen tend to be both absurdly overconfident and unwisely risk-averse; and why memory affects decision making in counterintuitive ways. Kahneman's primer adds to recent challenges to economic orthodoxies about rational actors and efficient markets; more than that, it's a lucid, marvelously readable guide to spotting—and correcting—our biased misunderstandings of the world. Photos. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“A tour de force. . . Kahneman’s book is a must read for anyone interested in either human behavior or investing. He clearly shows that while we like to think of ourselves as rational in our decision making, the truth is we are subject to many biases. At least being aware of them will give you a better chance of avoiding them, or at least making fewer of them.”—Larry Swedroe, CBS News

“Daniel Kahneman demonstrates forcefully in his new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, how easy it is for humans to swerve away from rationality.”—Christopher Shea, The Washington Post

 

“An outstanding book, distinguished by beauty and clarity of detail, precision of presentation and gentleness of manner. Its truths are open to all those whose System 2 is not completely defunct. I have hardly touched on its richness.”— Galen Strawson, The Guardian

 

“Brilliant . . . It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Daniel Kahneman’s contribution to the understanding of the way we think and choose. He stands among the giants, a weaver of the threads of Charles Darwin, Adam Smith and Sigmund Freud. Arguably the most important psychologist in history, Kahneman has reshaped cognitive psychology, the analysis of rationality and reason, the understanding of risk and the study of happiness and well-being . . . A magisterial work, stunning in its ambition, infused with knowledge, laced with wisdom, informed by modesty and deeply humane. If you can read only one book this year, read this one.”— Janice Gross Stein, The Globe and Mail 

 

“A sweeping, compelling tale of just how easily our brains are bamboozled, bringing in both his own research and that of numerous psychologists, economists, and other experts...Kahneman has a remarkable ability to take decades worth of research and distill from it what would be important and interesting for a lay audience...Thinking, Fast and Slow is an immensely important book. Many science books are uneven, with a useful or interesting chapter too often followed by a dull one. Not so here. With rare exceptions, the entire span of this weighty book is fascinating and applicable to day-to-day life. Everyone should read Thinking, Fast and Slow.” —Jesse Singal, Boston Globe

 

“We must be grateful to Kahneman for giving us in this book a joyful understanding of the practical side of our personalities.” —Freeman Dyson, The New York Review of Books

 

“Brilliant . . . It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Daniel Kahneman’s contribution to the understanding of the way we think and choose. He stands among the giants, a weaver of the threads of Charles Darwin, Adam Smith and Sigmund Freud. Arguably the most important psychologist in history, Kahneman has reshaped cognitive psychology, the analysis of rationality and reason, the understanding of risk and the study of happiness and well-being . . . A magisterial work, stunning in its ambition, infused with knowledge, laced with wisdom, informed by modesty and deeply humane. If you can read only one book this year, read this one.” — Janice Gross Stein, The Globe and Mail

“It is an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently touching, especially when Kahneman is recounting his collaboration with Tversky . . . So impressive is its vision of flawed human reason that the New York Times columnist David Brooks recently declared that Kahneman and Tversky’s work ‘will be remembered hundreds of years from now,’ and that it is ‘a crucial pivot point in the way we see ourselves.’ They are, Brooks said, ‘like the Lewis and Clark of the mind’ . . . By the time I got to the end of Thinking, Fast and Slow, my skeptical frown had long since given way to a grin of intellectual satisfaction. Appraising the book by the peak-end rule, I overconfidently urge everyone to buy and read it. But for those who are merely interested in Kahenman’s takeaway on the Malcolm Gladwell question it is this: If you've had 10,000 hours of training in a predictable, rapid-feedback environment—chess, firefighting, anesthesiology—then blink. In all other cases, think.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Ask around and you hear pretty much the same thing. 'Kahneman is the most influential psychologist since Sigmund Freud,' says Christopher Chabris, a professor of psychology at Union College, in New York. 'No one else has had such a broad impact on so many fields' . . . It now seems inevitable that Kahneman, who made his reputation by ignoring or defying conventional wisdom, is about to be anointed the intellectual guru of our economically irrational times.”— Evan R. Goldstein, The Chronicle of Higher Education

“There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow . . . This is one of the greatest and most engaging collections of insights into the human mind I have read.”—William Easterly, Financial Times

“[Thinking, Fast and Slow] is wonderful, of course. To anyone with the slightest interest in the workings of his own mind, it is so rich and fascinating that any summary would seem absurd.”— Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair

“Absorbingly articulate and infinitely intelligent . . . What's most enjoyable and compelling about Thinking, Fast and Slow is that it's so utterly, refreshingly anti-Gladwellian. There is nothing pop about Kahneman's psychology, no formulaic story arc, no beating you over the head with an artificial, buzzword-encrusted Big Idea. It's just the wisdom that comes from five decades of honest, rigorous scientific work, delivered humbly yet brilliantly, in a way that will forever change the way you think about thinking.”—Maria Popova, The Atlantic

“I will never think about thinking quite the same. [Thinking, Fast and Slow] is a monumental achievement.”—Roger Lowenstein, Bloomberg/Businessweek

“Profound . . . As Copernicus removed the Earth from the centre of the universe and Darwin knocked humans off their biological perch, Mr. Kahneman has shown that we are not the paragons of reason we assume ourselves to be.” —The Economist

 

“[Kahneman’s] disarmingly simple experiments have profoundly changed the way that we think about thinking . . . We like to see ourselves as a Promethean species, uniquely endowed with the gift of reason. But Mr. Kahneman’s simple experiments reveal a very different mind, stuffed full of habits that, in most situations, lead us astray.” —Jonah Lehrer, The Wall Street Journal

 

“[A] tour de force of psychological insight, research explication and compelling narrative that brings together in one volume the high points of Mr. Kahneman's notable contributions, over five decades, to the study of human judgment, decision-making and choice . . . Thanks to the elegance and force of his ideas, and the robustness of the evidence he offers for them, he has helped us to a new understanding of our divided minds—and our whole selves.” —Christoper F. Chabris, The Wall Street Journal

 

“The ramifications of Kahenman’s work are wide, extending into education, business, marketing, politics . . . and even happiness research. Call his field “psychonomics,” the hidden reasoning behind our choices. Thinking, Fast and Slow is essential reading for anyone with a mind.” —Kyle Smith, The New York Post

 

“A major intellectual event . . . The work of Kahneman and Tversky was a crucial pivot point in the way we see ourselves.” —David Brooks, The New York Times

 

“Kahneman provides a detailed, yet accessible, description of the psychological mechanisms involved in making decisions.” —Jacek Debiec, Nature

 

“With Kahneman’s expert help, readers may understand this mix of psychology and economics better than most accountants, therapists, or elected representatives. VERDICT A stellar accomplishment, a book for everyone who likes to think and wants to do it better.” —Library Journal

 

“The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of thought in this fascinating treatise by a giant in the field of decision research. Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman (Attention and Effort) posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1, he contends, makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so "lazy" and distractible that it usually defers to System 1. Kahneman uses this scheme to frame a scintillating discussion of his findings in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics, and of the ingenious experiments that tease out the irrational, self-contradictory logics that underlie our choices. We learn why we mistake statistical noise for coherent patterns; why the stock-picking of well-paid investment advisers and the prognostications of pundits are worthless; why businessmen tend to be both absurdly overconfident and unwisely risk-averse; and why memory affects decision making in counterintuitive ways. Kahneman's primer adds to recent challenges to economic orthodoxies about rational actors and efficient markets; more than that, it's a lucid, marvelously readable guide to spotting—and correcting—our biased misunderstandings of the world.” —Publishers' Weekly (starred review)

“For anyone interested in economics, cognitive science, psychology, and, in short, human behavior, this is the book of the year. Before Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics, there was Daniel Kahneman who invented the field of behavior economics, won a Nobel…and now explains how we think and make choices. Here’s an easy choice: read this.” —The Daily Beast

“This book is one of the few that must be counted as mandatory reading for anyone interested in the Internet, even though it doesn’t claim to be about that. Before computer networking got cheap and ubiquitous, the sheer inefficiency of communication dampened the effects of the quirks of human psychology on macro scale events. No more. We must now confront how we really are in order to make sense of our world and not screw it up. Daniel Kahneman has discovered a path to make it possible.” —Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget

“Daniel Kahneman is one of the most original and interesting thinkers of our time. There may be no other person on the planet who better understands how and why we make the choices we make. In this absolutely amazing book, he shares a lifetime’s worth of wisdom presented in a manner that is simple and engaging, but nonetheless stunningly profound. This book is a must read for anyone with a curious mind.” —Steven D. Levitt, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago; co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics.

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a masterpiece—a brilliant and engaging intellectual saga by one of the greatest psychologists and deepest thinkers of our time. Kahneman should be parking a Pulitzer next to his Nobel Prize.” —Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University Professor of Psychology, author of Stumbling on Happiness, host of the award-winning PBS television series “This Emotional Life”

“This book is a tour de force by an intellectual giant; it is readable, wise, and deep. Buy it fast. Read it slowly and repeatedly. It will change the way you think, on the job, about the world, and in your own life.” —Richard Thaler, University of Chicago Professor of Economics and co-author of Nudge

“This is a landmark book in social thought, in the same league as The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.”—Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan

“Daniel Kahneman is among the most influential psychologists in history and certainly the most important psychologist alive today. He has a gift for uncovering remarkable features of the human mind, many of which have become textbook classics and part of the conventional wisdom. His work has reshaped social psychology, cognitive science, the study of reason and of happiness, and behavioral economics, a field that he and his collaborator Amos Tversky helped to launch. The appearance of Thinking, Fast and Slow is a major event.” —Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of our Nature

Library Journal
Kahneman (psychology, emeritus, Princeton) won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work with Amos Tversky on decision making. In this large, readable book, Kahneman presents provocative theories and groundbreaking research and, moreover, clearly explains both. He postulates two systems of thinking that operate simultaneously but often at odds: intuitive and deliberative, or fast and slow, respectively. Fast judgments dominate to a greater extent than we know and to our disadvantage. A key discovery that overcame an effect Kahneman terms "theory induced blindness" (which refers mainly to fast-thinking mistakes but can occur in slow thinking when our assumptions are wrong or simply interfere with seeing) was that outcomes are better defined by gains and losses than by sums of wealth. "Prospect theory," an idea Kahneman developed with Tversky, posits that, when all our options are bad, we tend to take riskier paths. With Kahneman's expert help, readers may understand this mix of psychology and economics better than most accountants, therapists, or elected representatives. VERDICT A stellar accomplishment, a book for everyone who likes to think and wants to do it better. [See Prepub Alert, 5/9/11]—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as "lazy": We don't want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some ("heuristics," for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429969352
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/25/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 2,651
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University and a professor of public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his pioneering work with Amos Tversky on decision-making.

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Read an Excerpt


THINKING, FAST AND SLOW (Chapter 1)The Characters of the Story

To observe your mind in automatic mode, glance at the image below.

Figure 1

Your experience as you look at the woman's face seamlessly combines what we normally call seeing and intuitive thinking. As surely and quickly as you saw that the young woman's hair is dark, you knew she is angry. Furthermore, what you saw extended into the future. You sensed that this woman is about to say some very unkind words, probably in a loud and strident voice. A premonition of what she was going to do next came to mind automatically and effortlessly. You did not intend to assess her mood or to anticipate what she might do, and your reaction to the picture did not have the feel of something you did. It just happened to you. It was an instance of fast thinking.

Now look at the following problem:

17 × 24

You knew immediately that this is a multiplication problem, and probably knew that you could solve it, with paper and pencil, if not without. You also had some vague intuitive knowledge of the range of possible results. You would be quick to recognize that both 12,609 and 123 are implausible. Without spending some time on the problem, however, you would not be certain that the answer is not 568. A precise solution did not come to mind, and you felt that you could choose whether or not to engage in the computation. If you have not done so yet, you should attempt the multiplication problem now, completing at least part of it.

You experienced slow thinking as you proceeded through a sequence of steps. You first retrieved from memory the cognitive program for multiplication that you learned in school, then you implemented it. Carrying out the computation was a strain. You felt the burden of holding much material in memory, as you needed to keep track of where you were and of where you were going, while holding on to the intermediate result. The process was mental work: deliberate, effortful, and orderly--a prototype of slow thinking. The computation was not only an event in your mind; your body was also involved. Your muscles tensed up, your blood pressure rose, and your heart rate increased. Someone looking closely at your eyes while you tackled this problem would have seen your pupils dilate. Your pupils contracted back to normal size as soon as you ended your work--when you found the answer (which is 408, by the way) or when you gave up.

Two Systems

Psychologists have been intensely interested for several decades in the two modes of thinking evoked by the picture of the angry woman and by the multiplication problem, and have offered many labels for them. I adopt terms originally proposed by the psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West, and will refer to two systems in the mind, System 1 and System 2.

  • System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.
  • System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.

The labels of System 1 and System 2 are widely used in psychology, but I go further than most in this book, which you can read as a psychodrama with two characters.

When we think of ourselves, we identify with System 2, the conscious, reasoning self that has beliefs, makes choices, and decides what to think about and what to do. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is, the automatic System 1 is the hero of the book. I describe System 1 as effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2. The automatic operations of System 1 generate surprisingly complex patterns of ideas, but only the slower System 2 can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps. I also describe circumstances in which System 2 takes over, overruling the freewheeling impulses and associations of System 1. You will be invited to think of the two systems as agents with their individual abilities, limitations, and functions.

In rough order of complexity, here are some examples of the automatic activities that are attributed to System 1:

  • Detect that one object is more distant than another.
  • Orient to the source of a sudden sound.
  • Complete the phrase "bread and..."
  • Make a "disgust face" when shown a horrible picture.
  • Detect hostility in a voice.
  • Answer to 2 + 2 = ?
  • Read words on large billboards.
  • Drive a car on an empty road.
  • Find a strong move in chess (if you are a chess master).
  • Understand simple sentences.
  • Recognize that a "meek and tidy soul with a passion for detail" resembles an occupational stereotype.

All these mental events belong with the angry woman--they occur automatically and require little or no effort. The capabilities of System 1 include innate skills that we share with other animals. We are born prepared to perceive the world around us, recognize objects, orient attention, avoid losses, and fear spiders. Other mental activities become fast and automatic through prolonged practice. System 1 has learned associations between ideas (the capital of France?); it has also learned skills such as reading and understanding nuances of social situations. Some skills, such as finding strong chess moves, are acquired only by specialized experts. Others are widely shared. Detecting the similarity of a personality sketch to an occupational stereotype requires broad knowledge of the language and the culture, which most of us possess. The knowledge is stored in memory and accessed without intention and without effort.

Several of the mental actions in the list are completely involuntary. You cannot refrain from understanding simple sentences in your own language or from orienting to a loud unexpected sound, nor can you prevent yourself from knowing that 2 + 2 = 4 or from thinking of Paris when the capital of France is mentioned. Other activities, such as chewing, are susceptible to voluntary control but normally run on automatic pilot. The control of attention is shared by the two systems. Orienting to a loud sound is normally an involuntary operation of System 1, which immediately mobilizes the voluntary attention of System 2. You may be able to resist turning toward the source of a loud and offensive comment at a crowded party, but even if your head does not move, your attention is initially directed to it, at least for a while. However, attention can be moved away from an unwanted focus, primarily by focusing intently on another target.

The highly diverse operations of System 2 have one feature in common: they require attention and are disrupted when attention is drawn away. Here are some examples:

  • Brace for the starter gun in a race.
  • Focus attention on the clowns in the circus.
  • Focus on the voice of a particular person in a crowded and noisy room.
  • Look for a woman with white hair.
  • Search memory to identify a surprising sound.
  • Maintain a faster walking speed than is natural for you.
  • Monitor the appropriateness of your behavior in a social situation.
  • Count the occurrences of the letter a in a page of text.
  • Tell someone your phone number.
  • Park in a narrow space (for most people except garage attendants).
  • Compare two washing machines for overall value.
  • Fill out a tax form.
  • Check the validity of a complex logical argument.

In all these situations you must pay attention, and you will perform less well, or not at all, if you are not ready or if your attention is directed inappropriately. System 2 has some ability to change the way System 1 works, by programming the normally automatic functions of attention and memory. When waiting for a relative at a busy train station, for example, you can set yourself at will to look for a white-haired woman or a bearded man, and thereby increase the likelihood of detecting your relative from a distance. You can set your memory to search for capital cities that start with N or for French existentialist novels. And when you rent a car at London's Heathrow Airport, the attendant will probably remind you that "we drive on the left side of the road over here." In all these cases, you are asked to do something that does not come naturally, and you will find that the consistent maintenance of a set requires continuous exertion of at least some effort.

The oft en-used phrase "pay attention" is apt: you dispose of a limited budget of attention that you can allocate to activities, and if you try to go beyond your budget, you will fail. It is the mark of effortful activities that they interfere with each other, which is why it is difficult or impossible to conduct several at once. You could not compute the product of 17 × 24 while making a left turn into dense traffic, and you certainly should not try. You can do several things at once, but only if they are easy and undemanding. You are probably safe carrying on a conversation with a passenger while driving on an empty highway, and many parents have discovered, perhaps with some guilt, that they can read a story to a child while thinking of something else.

Everyone has some awareness of the limited capacity of attention, and our social behavior makes allowances for these limitations. When the driver of a car is overtaking a truck on a narrow road, for example, adult passengers quite sensibly stop talking. They know that distracting the driver is not a good idea, and they also suspect that he is temporarily deaf and will not hear what they say.

Intense focusing on a task can make people effectively blind, even to stimuli that normally attract attention. The most dramatic demonstration was offered by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons in their book The Invisible Gorilla. They constructed a short film of two teams passing basketballs, one team wearing white shirts, the other wearing black. The viewers of the film are instructed to count the number of passes made by the white team, ignoring the black players. This task is difficult and completely absorbing. Halfway through the video, a woman wearing a gorilla suit appears, crosses the court, thumps her chest, and moves on. The gorilla is in view for 9 seconds. Many thousands of people have seen the video, and about half of them do not notice anything unusual. It is the counting task--and especially the instruction to ignore one of the teams--that causes the blindness. No one who watches the video without that task would miss the gorilla. Seeing and orienting are automatic functions of System 1, but they depend on the allocation of some attention to the relevant stimulus. The authors note that the most remarkable observation of their study is that people find its results very surprising. Indeed, the viewers who fail to see the gorilla are initially sure that it was not there--they cannot imagine missing such a striking event. The gorilla study illustrates two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.

Plot Synopsis

The interaction of the two systems is a recurrent theme of the book, and a brief synopsis of the plot is in order. In the story I will tell, Systems 1 and 2 are both active whenever we are awake. System 1 runs automatically and System 2 is normally in a comfortable low-effort mode, in which only a fraction of its capacity is engaged. System 1 continuously generates suggestions for System 2: impressions, intuitions, intentions, and feelings. If endorsed by System 2, impressions and intuitions turn into beliefs, and impulses turn into voluntary actions. When all goes smoothly, which is most of the time, System 2 adopts the suggestions of System 1 with little or no modification. You generally believe your impressions and act on your desires, and that is fine--usually.

When System 1 runs into difficulty, it calls on System 2 to support more detailed and specific processing that may solve the problem of the moment. System 2 is mobilized when a question arises for which System 1 does not offer an answer, as probably happened to you when you encountered the multiplication problem 17 × 24. You can also feel a surge of conscious attention whenever you are surprised. System 2 is activated when an event is detected that violates the model of the world that System 1 maintains. In that world, lamps do not jump, cats do not bark, and gorillas do not cross basketball courts. The gorilla experiment demonstrates that some attention is needed for the surprising stimulus to be detected. Surprise then activates and orients your attention: you will stare, and you will search your memory for a story that makes sense of the surprising event. System 2 is also credited with the continuous monitoring of your own behavior--the control that keeps you polite when you are angry, and alert when you are driving at night. System 2 is mobilized to increased effort when it detects an error about to be made. Remember a time when you almost blurted out an offensive remark and note how hard you worked to restore control. In summary, most of what you (your System 2) think and do originates in your System 1, but System 2 takes over when things get difficult, and it normally has the last word.

The division of labor between System 1 and System 2 is highly efficient: it minimizes effort and optimizes performance. The arrangement works well most of the time because System 1 is generally very good at what it does: its models of familiar situations are accurate, its short-term predictions are usually accurate as well, and its initial reactions to challenges are swift and generally appropriate. System 1 has biases, however, systematic errors that it is prone to make in specified circumstances. As we shall see, it sometimes answers easier questions than the one it was asked, and it has little understanding of logic and statistics. One further limitation of System 1 is that it cannot be turned off. If you are shown a word on the screen in a language you know, you will read it--unless your attention is totally focused elsewhere.

Conflict

Figure 2 is a variant of a classic experiment that produces a conflict between the two systems. You should try the exercise before reading on.

Figure 2

You were almost certainly successful in saying the correct words in both tasks, and you surely discovered that some parts of each task were much easier than others. When you identified upper-and lowercase, the left-hand column was easy and the right-hand column caused you to slow down and perhaps to stammer or stumble. When you named the position of words, the left-hand column was difficult and the right-hand column was much easier.

These tasks engage System 2, because saying "upper/lower" or "right/left" is not what you routinely do when looking down a column of words. One of the things you did to set yourself for the task was to program your memory so that the relevant words (upper and lower for the first task) were "on the tip of your tongue." The prioritizing of the chosen words is effective and the mild temptation to read other words was fairly easy to resist when you went through the first column. But the second column was different, because it contained words for which you were set, and you could not ignore them. You were mostly able to respond correctly, but overcoming the competing response was a strain, and it slowed you down. You experienced a conflict between a task that you intended to carry out and an automatic response that interfered with it.

Conflict between an automatic reaction and an intention to control it is common in our lives. We are all familiar with the experience of trying not to stare at the oddly dressed couple at the neighboring table in a restaurant. We also know what it is like to force our attention on a boring book, when we constantly find ourselves returning to the point at which the reading lost its meaning. Where winters are hard, many drivers have memories of their car skidding out of control on the ice and of the struggle to follow well-rehearsed instructions that negate what they would naturally do: "Steer into the skid, and whatever you do, do not touch the brakes!" And every human being has had the experience of not telling someone to go to hell. One of the tasks of System 2 is to overcome the impulses of System 1. In other words, System 2 is in charge of self-control.

Illusions

To appreciate the autonomy of System 1, as well as the distinction between impressions and beliefs, take a good look at figure 3.

This picture is unremarkable: two horizontal lines of different lengths, with fins appended, pointing in different directions. The bottom line is obviously longer than the one above it. That is what we all see, and we naturally believe what we see. If you have already encountered this image, however, you recognize it as the famous Müller-Lyer illusion. As you can easily confirm by measuring them with a ruler, the horizontal lines are in fact identical in length.

Figure 3

Now that you have measured the lines, you--your System 2, the conscious being you call "I"--have a new belief: you know that the lines are equally long. If asked about their length, you will say what you know. But you still see the bottom line as longer. You have chosen to believe the measurement, but you cannot prevent System 1 from doing its thing; you cannot decide to see the lines as equal, although you know they are. To resist the illusion, there is only one thing you can do: you must learn to mistrust your impressions of the length of lines when fins are attached to them. To implement that rule, you must be able to recognize the illusory pattern and recall what you know about it. If you can do this, you will never again be fooled by the Müller-Lyer illusion. But you will still see one line as longer than the other.

Not all illusions are visual. There are illusions of thought, which we call cognitive illusions. As a graduate student, I attended some courses on the art and science of psychotherapy. During one of these lectures, our teacher imparted a morsel of clinical wisdom. This is what he told us: "You will from time to time meet a patient who shares a disturbing tale of multiple mistakes in his previous treatment. He has been seen by several clinicians, and all failed him. The patient can lucidly describe how his therapists misunderstood him, but he has quickly perceived that you are different. You share the same feeling, are convinced that you understand him, and will be able to help." At this point my teacher raised his voice as he said, "Do not even think of taking on this patient! Throw him out of the office! He is most likely a psychopath and you will not be able to help him."

Many years later I learned that the teacher had warned us against psychopathic charm, and the leading authority in the study of psychopathy confirmed that the teacher's advice was sound. The analogy to the Müller-Lyer illusion is close. What we were being taught was not how to feel about that patient. Our teacher took it for granted that the sympathy we would feel for the patient would not be under our control; it would arise from System 1. Furthermore, we were not being taught to be generally suspicious of our feelings about patients. We were told that a strong attraction to a patient with a repeated history of failed treatment is a danger sign--like the fins on the parallel lines. It is an illusion--a cognitive illusion--and I (System 2) was taught how to recognize it and advised not to believe it or act on it.

The question that is most oft en asked about cognitive illusions is whether they can be overcome. The message of these examples is not encouraging. Because System 1 operates automatically and cannot be turned off at will, errors of intuitive thought are oft en difficult to prevent. Biases cannot always be avoided, because System 2 may have no clue to the error. Even when cues to likely errors are available, errors can be prevented only by the enhanced monitoring and effortful activity of System 2. As a way to live your life, however, continuous vigilance is not necessarily good, and it is certainly impractical. Constantly questioning our own thinking would be impossibly tedious, and System 2 is much too slow and inefficient to serve as a substitute for System 1 in making routine decisions. The best we can do is a compromise: learn to recognize situations in which mistakes are likely and try harder to avoid significant mistakes when the stakes are high. The premise of this book is that it is easier to recognize other people's mistakes than our own.

Useful Fictions

You have been invited to think of the two systems as agents within the mind, with their individual personalities, abilities, and limitations. I will oft en use sentences in which the systems are the subjects, such as, "System 2 calculates products."

The use of such language is considered a sin in the professional circles in which I travel, because it seems to explain the thoughts and actions of a person by the thoughts and actions of little people inside the person's head. Grammatically the sentence about System 2 is similar to "The butler steals the petty cash." My colleagues would point out that the butler's action actually explains the disappearance of the cash, and they rightly question whether the sentence about System 2 explains how products are calculated. My answer is that the brief active sentence that attributes calculation to System 2 is intended as a description, not an explanation. It is meaningful only because of what you already know about System 2. It is shorthand for the following: "Mental arithmetic is a voluntary activity that requires effort, should not be performed while making a left turn, and is associated with dilated pupils and an accelerated heart rate."

Similarly, the statement that "highway driving under routine conditions is left to System 1" means that steering the car around a bend is automatic and almost effortless. It also implies that an experienced driver can drive on an empty highway while conducting a conversation. Finally, "System 2 prevented James from reacting foolishly to the insult" means that James would have been more aggressive in his response if his capacity for effortful control had been disrupted (for example, if he had been drunk).

System 1 and System 2 are so central to the story I tell in this book that I must make it absolutely clear that they are fictitious characters. Systems 1 and 2 are not systems in the standard sense of entities with interacting aspects or parts. And there is no one part of the brain that either of the systems would call home. You may well ask: What is the point of introducing fictitious characters with ugly names into a serious book? The answer is that the characters are useful because of some quirks of our minds, yours and mine. A sentence is understood more easily if it describes what an agent (System 2) does than if it describes what something is, what properties it has. In other words, "System 2" is a better subject for a sentence than "mental arithmetic." The mind--especially System 1--appears to have a special aptitude for the construction and interpretation of stories about active agents, who have personalities, habits, and abilities. You quickly formed a bad opinion of the thieving butler, you expect more bad behavior from him, and you will remember him for a while. This is also my hope for the language of systems.

Why call them System 1 and System 2 rather than the more descriptive "automatic system" and "effortful system"? The reason is simple: "Automatic system" takes longer to say than "System 1" and therefore takes more space in your working memory. This matters, because anything that occupies your working memory reduces your ability to think. You should treat "System 1" and "System 2" as nicknames, like Bob and Joe, identifying characters that you will get to know over the course of this book. The fictitious systems make it easier for me to think about judgment and choice, and will make it easier for you to understand what I say.

Speaking of System 1 and System 2

"He had an impression, but some of his impressions are illusions."

"This was a pure System 1 response. She reacted to the threat before she recognized it."

"This is your System 1 talking. Slow down and let your System 2 take control."

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Kahneman

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Part I Two Systems

1 The Characters of the Story 19

2 Attention and Effort 31

3 The Lazy Controller 39

4 The Associative Machine 50

5 Cognitive Ease 59

6 Norms, Surprises, and Causes 71

7 A Machine for Jumping to Conclusions 79

8 How Judgments Happen 89

9 Answering an Easier Question 97

Part II Heuristics and Biases

10 The Law of Small Numbers 109

11 Anchors 119

12 The Science of Availability 129

13 Availability, Emotion, and Risk 137

14 Tom W's Specialty 146

15 Linda: Less is More 156

16 Causes Trump Statistics 166

17 Regression to the Mean 175

18 Taming Intuitive Predictions 185

Part III Overconfidence

19 The Illusion of Understanding 199

20 The Illusion of Validity 209

21 Intuitions vs. Formulas 222

22 Expert intuition: when can we trust it? 234

23 The Outside View 245

24 The Engine of Capitalism 255

Part IV Choices

25 Bernoulli's Errors 269

26 Prospect Theory 278

27 The Endowment Effect 289

28 Bad Events 300

29 The Fourfold Pattern 310

30 Rare Events 320

31 Risk Policies 334

32 Keeping Score 342

33 Reversals 353

34 Frames and Reality 363

Part V Two Selves

35 Two Selves 377

36 Life as a Story 386

37 Experienced Well-Being 391

38 Thinking about Life 398

Conclusions 408

Appendix A Judgment Under Uncertainty 419

Appendix B Choices, Values, and Frames 433

Notes 449

Acknowledgments 483

Index 485

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 137 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2012

    Must read for students of the mind

    I've read a number of books that touched upon subject matter similar to this one - Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness" and the "Drunkard's Walk" by Mlodinow. Those books cite Kahneman's research as source material, and so I was quite excited to read this book by a giant in this field of research. Overall, I think this is an exceptionally readable and thorough treatment of frequent cognitive errors that people make. Even though I'd read the other two books, I still found this one to be very interesting, especially for the system 1/2 model that Kahneman puts forth. He also reinforces the material on a regular basis, so hopefully, it will be sticky and memorable. Although Kahneman is an academic, I think this book will be readable and accessible to a wide audience. So I would give him high marks for that. The only thing I am struggling with is a despair that I will never be able to overcome the shortcomings of my hardware... And oh yeah, this is a long book, but I guess you get your money's worth!

    27 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Un-Think

    Daniel Kahneman, adept at psychological sleight of cognition, gives us a two tier system that is inherently flawed. This is so because quantitative research holds that correlation does not imply causation.

    This Fundamental principle follows a truth that it is always possible that a spurious relationship exists for variables between which covariance is held to some degree. In probability theory, covariance is the measure of how much two random variables vary together.

    In equating these variables I find in the instance of the variable System 1 that it is above its expected value as opposed to System 2s expected use, which is below its expected value. The covariance between these two variables is deemed negative in probability theory. In this case the negativity being System 1s expected value, thus it follows a higher value is placed on System 2.

    Therefore the value based derivative of System 1 when used in Kahneman's terms as a base value positive is absolutely without worth. It is trifling, manipulative bit of thought processing - it is a transparent artifice.

    Chris Roberts

    21 out of 146 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Thinking, Fast and Slow

    The topics that Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman addresses are both complex and integral to the human mind: He asks you to think about thinking by considering how your mind habitually contradicts itself, distorts data and misleads you. His prose is lucid, his reasoning rigorous and his honesty refreshing – more than once Kahneman illustrates conflicted thinking with examples from his own life. The result is a fairly slow read, but an ultimately rewarding experience. getAbstract recommends this book to anyone interested in neuroscience and neuroeconomics, and to all those who want to improve their thinking about thinking.

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    Bait and switch

    If you are looking for a well researched, organized, and readable scholarly work on an interesting topic, you will be sorely disappointed with this book. This is a bait and switch. New and useful insight is promised but only yesterday’s news and tired old liberal dogma is delivered. Daniel Kahneman offers a rambling narrative filled with assertion, reminiscence, and repetition. The book culminates in a liberal rant delivered with all the arrogance of the ivory tower. Kahneman is entitled to his opinion, but he and his publisher promised objectivity and scholarship – and delivered neither. Let the buyer beware.

    11 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2012

    *A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksi

    *A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

    The adage ‘you are what you eat’ is no doubt literally true, but when it comes to getting at the heart of what we are it is certainly more accurate to say ‘you are what you think’; for our identity emerges out of the life of the mind, and our decisions and actions (including what we eat) is determined by our thoughts. An exploration of how we think therefore cuts to the core of what we are, and offers a clear path to gaining a better understanding of ourselves and why we behave as we do. In addition, while many of us are fairly happy with how our mind works, few of us would say that we could not afford to improve here at least in some respects; and therefore, an exploration of how we think also promises to point the way towards fruitful self-improvement (which stands to help us both in our personal and professional lives). While thinking about thinking was traditionally a speculative practice (embarked upon by philosophers and economists) it has recently received a more empirical treatment through the disciplines of psychology and neuroscience. It is from the latter angle that the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman approaches the subject in his new book 'Thinking, Fast and Slow'.

    As the title would suggest, Kahneman breaks down thinking into 2 modes or systems. Slow thinking is the system that we normally think of as thought in the strictest sense. It is deliberate and conscious, and we naturally feel as though we are in control of it (Kahneman refers to it as system 2). System 2 is in play when we actively consider what we want to have for dinner tonight, or when we choose what stocks to buy, or when we perform a mathematical calculation. System 1, by contrast, is automatic and unconscious, and hums along continuously in the background. It constantly surveys the environment, and processes the incoming stimuli with razor speed.

    The impressions of system 1 are fairly effective in protecting us from moment to moment, but they are much less effective in long-term planning; and therefore, they are much more problematic here. Of course, system 2 is capable of overriding the impressions of system 1, and of avoiding the errors. However, as Kahneman points out, system 2 is often completely unaware that it is being influenced (and misled) by system 1; and therefore, is not naturally well-equipped to catch the errors. Much of the book is spent exploring the activities and biases of system 1, in order to make us more aware of how this system works and how it influences (and often misleads) system 2.

    This is only half the battle, though, for while system 2 may be naturally poorly equipped to catch the errors of system 1, it is also often poorly equipped to correct these errors. Indeed, Kahneman argues that system 2 is simply not a paragon of rationality, and could stand to use a good deal of help in this regard. This is another major concern of the book.

    Kahneman does a very good job of breaking down the workings of the mind, and presenting his findings in a very readable way. My only objection to the book is that the arguments are sometimes drawn out much more than needed, and there is a fair bit of repetition. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    Scientific Studies on Two Systems of Brain Processes

    Thinking Fast and Slow
    Daniel Kahneman © 2011
    Farrer, Straus and Giroux, NY
    ISBN 978-0-374-27563-1 (alk.paper) Hdbk.)
    418 pp. plus appendices


    Dr. Kahneman presents research that examines two systems in human brains that he calls System one and System two. System one is fast, intuitive and decides based on observable points and from memory. System two thinks logically and slower, but is lazy and often accepts what System one presents. This results in biases and decisions not supported by accurate evidence.


    This author hopes that readers of his book will learn to think more clearly through understanding the research and ideas he presents. The book is not one to read quickly but is well written and informative.


    Probably human brains have more than two systems that control our thinking, but scientists often research basic processes thoroughly before studying more complex issues. That seems to be the case with Thinking Fast and Slow.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2011

    The bad story

    This book was a great book about bad stories. I loved it!

    6 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    Rough to read

    I would have enjoyed it more had the editor streamlined it better. I have never thought of myself as being from the TV generation...but i was (am, actually, as I haven't yet gotten through the book in its entierity) a bit bored. The author seems mired in a thought that could have been more easily portrayed by a (ghost) writer (v scientist). As a teacher he would have found this student skipping class to catch some zzz's. It's compelling thought with a clunky delivery. So, it's taking me longer than other nonfiction (of similar genera). Good concepts though. I will power through to the conclusion, but it will take some time.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2012

    This book gives a great deal of insight into the problems we're

    This book gives a great deal of insight into the problems we're having in America today. It rates high on my must read list.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2012

    Owner's manual for your brain.

    Took me forever to finish but a great book.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Great

    I want to read more about our body and all the "stuff" inside it. It could get me a head start on science which I really love. Hope more books can be realeased.


    From 11 yr. old kid

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2012

    Good read but slow at times

    Overall I liked this book. It gave me a lot to think about with regards to how I think - my (our) biases, the heuristics I (we) use, how I (we) think about the past, etc. The only quibble I have is that it gets slow in the second half. However, it does end strong with the "Two Selves" concept (the experiencing self vs. the remembering self).

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    The best nonfiction book I have read in my whole life. Best non

    The best nonfiction book I have read in my whole life. Best nonfiction content in a book written. Very interesting content. High quality content, genius writing, very highly recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    An enlightening book

    Just excellent. Everyone should read this. Not always simple, but it would make our communal dialogue more enlightened.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    I live in on one of the great lakes. It has been snowing alot.

    It is cold.

    2 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This book is outstanding. I am glad I read this book because I

    This book is outstanding. I am glad I read this book because I can apply the information within it to my daily life and also because things in life are not what they appear to be.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    Correlation vs causation

    See book pg 183 where author points out that many, including eminent researchers, "...have made the same mistake --- confusing mere correlation with causation." But the author does not appear to be one of them.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2013

    I'm an economist, so there wasn't much new for me in this book.

    I'm an economist, so there wasn't much new for me in this book. I did not care for the games and gimmicks, such as invitations to repeat his experiments and talking points at the end of each chapter, but both can be skipped easily. I did not find the System 1 and 2 (fast and slow) scheme very enlightening. I kept thinking about Freakonomics - another attempt to mass-market economic insights - and almost quit before reaching Part II. I'm glad I kept going, because the last half of the book was much better. Readers with advanced knowledge of economics may be disappointed. However, I would recommend this book to non-economists because it exposes numerous flaws in our intuition.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2013

    fascinating

    This is a book with a number of new insights into our thought processes. I will be reading and rereading part of it frequently.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    rating

    rating change

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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