How many widgets?

Thinking, Fast and Slow

I am reading a book by a retired professor of psychology who is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Probably a pretty dull book, right?

Pretty dull book, wrong. It’s lively, consistently engaging, and useful. It’s called Thinking, Fast and Slow. The author is Daniel Kahneman.

A while ago I sent out a puzzle to my email list,  saying that a bat and a ball together cost $1.10, and the ball cost $1 more than the ball did, so how much did the ball cost. I and many of my friends were flummoxed by this elementarily easy puzzle, not because we’re stupid (we aren’t) but because of the way we habitually process information.

That puzzle came from this book. Here’s another. (This time, forewarned that there might be a rat in the cellar, I got the answer right, easily. I predict that you will too, for the same reason: You are forewarned. This is what his book is about, how the mind uses two systems to process information. Forewarning mobilizes system 2.)

“If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

“100 minutes OR 5 minutes”

If you got the answer right without hesitation, you haven’t learned anything by this puzzle.

If you got it wrong, or got it right only after you hesitated and then rejected the wrong answer, you have experienced the shift from system 1 to system 2.

If you don’t know if your answer is right or wrong, email me and I’ll tell you, but that is a sign that you are not shifting over to system 2 when you should.

This is a fascinating book!

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