Alice was bored; bored with the doldrums of regular life; bored of books with no pictures. Out of boredom Alice is lured to follow the white rabbit down the rabbit hole. I imagine Alice would be similarly bored with the Daniel Kahneman’s 400 plus page book (with very few pictures) Reading, Fast and Slow. Kahneman’s vast experience in economics, statistics, and psychology inform his 2 system (Fast Intuitive Thinking and Slow Effortful thinking), 2 selves (Experiencing and Remembering) framework for understanding thinking about thinking. Yeah, a rabbit hole in the making. But I, aka “this Alice”, wasn’t bored even without many pictures.
Reading Fast and Slow is a thorough fleshing out of psychological statistics as it informs how humans utilize impressions, intuitions, effort applied in cognition, experiences, and memory in their decisions and beliefs making. Make no mistake, Kahneman is all about unpacking how and why we make mistakes in our thinking. Kahneman admits that his book is weighted heavily on presenting the types of biases that influence intuition (heuristics, stereotypes, anchoring effect, WYSIATHI et al.) He also makes clear that System 2, the Slow Thinking, rational part of our thinking system, has an important role in working to sift through our intuitions and impressions to lead us to new information, knowledge, beliefs. He notes that this process of thinking takes intentional effort, and yet the inclination is to be lazy. Kahneman’s sense of humor and engaging subject matter was the white rabbit that led “this Alice” down the rabbit hole.
I found myself going down all kinds of rabbit holes while reading this book. Thinking about rabbit holes lead me down the rabbit hole of Alice’s rabbit hole where I came across an article by Kathleen Shultz. “In the original story, Alice falls for quite a while—long enough to scout out the environment, grab some food off a passing shelf, speculate erroneously about other parts of the world, drift into a reverie about cats, and nearly fall asleep.” Yes, I did a long fall through Reading, Fast and Slow. More than any book so far I found myself making all kinds of scriptural and theological connections, for instance, how does our system 2’s behavior of escaping effort speak to the challenges of discipleship, system 2 being activated lead to system 1 to succumb to temptation – how does this impact our understanding of what happened during the temptations of Jesus, and do scriptures reflect the psychological awareness of “cognitive ease”, i.e. what happens when we give with a joyful heart?. Another rabbit hole, how can some of these biases be utilized for positive impact on church engagement, and more importantly ethical? I saw rabbit holes luring me to investigate more where Friedman and Kahneman connected on “low pain thresholds”, and the logic of Augustine’s morality coercion undergirding “The Nudge of the 2 Selves”, how I play Frozen FreeFall game on my phone, and just plain curiosity of why I would choose the take the road less travelled.
Last year we read Being Wrong (also) by Kathleen Schultz. As Kahneman unpacked in section 5, humans confounding tendencies to believe that what we know is the correct truth while new information presented conflicts with our truth, I flashed to memories of reading her book. This lead me down another rabbit hole to find my Facebook posts when I shared some of her quotes. This human truth, that we struggle with saying ’I’m sorry, I was wrong” has been a simmering pot for me. As our chronically anxious nation continues to be polarized over racism, Covid, masks, and vaccines I become more convinced of the importance that the biology, psychology, and (strangely) statistics around low thresholds of pain, and our tendencies to dig our heels in even when we are wrong, need to be a part of understanding our leadership in the places God has us. It means effort applied, self-differentiation, courage, risk, imagination, and love. All of this is overwhelming when I think about how to integrate it all.
Thinking, Fast and Slow has so much to unpack. But as I said to Kayli, “I woke up freaking out over everything I have to accomplish. Then I decided I really have to prioritize.” This book will be one I come back to again when I have time to follow the white rabbit again. It was fun to slowly fall down the rabbit hole looking all around at what I could see in his book. I believe that as I ponder the questions raised, I will say what Alice would say, curiouser and curiouser.
 Section 3 – The Lazy Controller
 Page 41 – The Busy and Depleted System 2
 Section 5 – Cognitive Ease
 Getting people to smile in order to be positively open to the worship experience, using the Anchoring index in fund raising, or priming to create generosity.
 “This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easer one instead, usually without noticing substitutions” Page 12; Loss Aversion pg.283
 Page 96, 372, 412-413.
 Facebook post September 8, 2020 “As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient. “
Facebook post September 9,2020 “Error-blindness…as soon as we know that we are wrong, we aren’t wrong anymore since to recognize a belief as false is to stop believing it. That we can only say “I WAS wrong.”
Facebook post September 13, 2020 ”All of us believe in getting second opinions when it comes to medical issues, but when it comes to most other matters, we are perfectly content to stick with the opinion we already have……Most of us are supremely unmotivated to educate ourselves about beliefs with which we disagree.”