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Thinking and Deciding

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 7 months ago

Notes on Jonathan Baron Thinking and Deciding. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (First edition 1998; Second edition 1994; Third edition 2000 (Google preview)

 

Up: Key References

 

This is a proper university-level textbook and, although written well, quite uninspiringly typeset (I own the second edition). It's an essential book for a scholarly treatment of biases, heuristics and closed- versus open-mindedness. It impressively combines psychology, logic and economics so that for each aspect of reasoning and decision-making we're presented with three perspectives:

  1. Normative: What is the optimal way to do it, according to probability theory, utility theory or other relevant standards?
  2. Descriptive: How do people actually reason and decide, according to experiment and observation?
  3. Prescriptive: How can we persuade or teach people to overcome their biases and improve their judgements or decisions?

 

This book advances a very clear theory of what constitutes good thinking, which I have not seen elsewhere:

 

  • Active open-mindedness
    1. Searching thoroughly for different possibilities
    2. Avoiding overconfidence: having only the degree of confidence justified by the amount and quality of thinking
    3. Fairness to possibilities other than our initial position

 

Baron investigates his topics with the active open-minded approach he recommends, cautious, self-challenging but based on a very impressive array of evidence, with  about 600 scientific and philosophical references at the end of the book.

 

Thinking and Deciding is very hard going compared to the books on bias for a lay audience, but for someone who wants a thorough and philosophically aware coverage of human biases and decision making, this is arguably the best book in its field.

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