“The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.” – Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to see a live one hour interview with Michael Lewis at the Annenberg Center about his new book The Undoing Project. Everyone attending the lecture received a complimentary copy of the book. Being a huge fan of Lewis after reading Liar’s Poker, Boomerang, The Big Short, Flash Boys, and Moneyball, I was interested to hear about his new project. This was a completely new direction from his financial crisis books. I wasn’t sure whether it would keep my interest, but the story of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky and their research into the psychology of judgement and decision making, creating a cognitive basis for common human errors that arise from heuristics and biases, was an eye opener.
In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules which people often use to form judgments and make decisions. They are mental shortcuts that usually involve focusing on one aspect of a complex problem and ignoring others. These rules work well under most circumstances, but they can lead to systematic deviations from logic, probability or rational choice theory. The resulting errors are called “cognitive biases” and many different types have been documented.