Daniel Kahneman challenges the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields—including economics, medicine, and politics
I’m particularly interested in Daniel Kahneman’s perspective, “Why do nations go to war?”
Consider the following: 80% of us consider ourselves better-than-average drivers.
The connection may seem weak, but it helps to explain.
A new paper in Foreign Policy magazine suggests this point of view is a cornerstone of humankind’s warlike nature. The great majority of us simply think we are smarter, more skilled, and more fair-minded than the next guy, and that makes us naturally a bit more inclined to be hawks than doves, to feel we are right when it comes time to fight.
Essentially, Daniel Kahneman argues that 40 years of psychological studies have uncovered some inherent biases shared by people all over the globe, regardless of race, age or nationality, and that those biases favor war.
How does it work? First, even though we often deny it, we commonly think we are better than the next person/group/nation, and we think our plans for progress are reasonable and fair to all involved. So when any human meets with resistance from another, he or she automatically sees the opposition as unreasonably hostile.
Second, because we have such a high opinion of ourselves, we tend to be overly optimistic. In each conflict, people on each side think they’ll win. During World War One, for example, both the Germans and the French predicted quick, easy victories. Instead, the war lasted years and took nearly 20 million lives.
Lastly, we hate accepting losses. Gamblers know all about this. Offer a guy a choice between losing $850 for certain right now or maybe losing a $1,000 tomorrow, and he’ll choose tomorrow, even if there is only a slight chance that he’ll avoid tomorrow’s losses.
What it all adds up to, according to Kahneman, is a tendency to favor hawkish views.
Kahneman’s idea is that people everywhere should be aware or how these natural tendencies flavor our public debate, and even now may be pushing us toward the next battlefront.
Applying his theories to political decision making about war, Daniel Kahneman warns against misperceptions built into the human mind, in short:
>> Overrate own capabilities and control of events,
>> Exaggerate the evil intentions of adversaries,
>> Misjudge how adversaries perceive us,
>> Expect adversaries to understand that our own behaviour may be dictated by the constraints of circumstances, but attribute adversaries’ perceived hostile behaviour to their nature, character or persistent motives
Daniel Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon Why Hawks Win, Foreign Policy
USA Today: ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ explores brain processes
NY Times: Two Brains Running
The Guardian: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – review
An outstandingly clear and precise study of the ‘dual-process’ model of the brain and our embedded self-delusions.
The Globe and Mail: The heart of reason, and the reason of the heart
Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman in conversation with Richard Layard
Professor Daniel Kahneman, Professor Lord Richard Layard
Two systems drive the way we think and make choices: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Over many years, Daniel Kahneman has conducted groundbreaking research into this — in his own words — “machinery of the mind”. Fast thinking has extraordinary capabilities, but also faults and biases. Intuitive impressions have a pervasive influence on our thoughts and our choices. Only by understanding how the two systems work together, Kahneman shows, can we learn the truth about the role of optimism in opening up a new business, and the importance of luck in a successful corporate strategy, or the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, and the psychological pitfalls of playing the stock market. Kahneman shows where we can trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choice are made in both our business and personal lives — and how we can guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.
TIME 10 Questions: 10 Questions for Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman Interview – Nobel Laureate – The Guardian
@Google Presents: Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman: ‘A great deal of prejudice is built-in’