5 Science-Backed Books Like Thinking Fast and Slow

Humans are irrational little creatures (myself included), subject to countless cognitive biases, logical fallacies and mistaken judgments.

If you want to understand how and why these reasoning errors occur, delving into the mysteries of the mind is essential.

Fortunately, some rather smart people have researched this very topic and reached some rather interesting conclusions.

One of these people is Daniel Kahneman, author of the seminal book Thinking Fast and Slow.

In this article, I’ll assume you liked that work so much that you’re seeking similarly educational material on the topic.

So here are five similar book recommendations.

Books Like Thinking Fast and Slow

1. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely explores the many ways in which our behavior is shaped by irrational forces.

Ariely begins by examining the role of emotions in decision-making.

He argues that our emotions often lead us to make choices that are contrary to our best interests.

For example, we may make risky decisions when we are feeling happy or optimistic, and we may choose to procrastinate when we are feeling anxious or stressed.

Ariely then turns to the role of social norms in shaping our behavior.

He argues that we are often influenced by what other people around us are doing, even when those choices may not be in our own best interests.

For example, we may be more likely to purchase a luxury item if we see others doing so.

Finally, Ariely explores the role of free will in decision-making.

He argues that our choices are often constrained by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and that it is often difficult to resist temptation.

As a result, we often make choices that we later regret.

Ultimately, Ariely paints a picture of human behavior that is far from rational.

He argues that our irrationality is predictable and often leads us to make suboptimal choices.

However, he also shows that our irrationality can be harnessed to achieve better outcomes.

Pros

  • Ariely makes a strong case for the role of irrational forces in decision-making.
  • Ariely’s credentials in the arena of human psychology and behavior are undisputed.
  • Ariely’s writing is engaging and accessible.

Cons

  • The book is somewhat repetitive.
  • Some examples provided are anecdotal.

Bottom line

Predictably Irrational is an interesting and thought-provoking book about the role of irrational forces in human decision-making.

It’s well-written and accessible, with plenty of interesting examples.

2. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink is a book about the power of first impressions.

Malcolm Gladwell argues that our snap judgments are often more accurate than the decisions we make after long deliberation.

He cites research in cognitive science and psychology to support his claim, and tells stories of people who have made split-second decisions with remarkable success.

In one chapter, he describes how Paul Van Riper used principles of game theory to defeat a computer simulation of a war against the Soviet Union.

In another, he tells the story of John Gottman, a psychologist who can predict with 96% accuracy whether a couple will get divorced simply by watching them interact for fifteen minutes.

Gladwell also discusses the potential downside of quick thinking, such as when stereotyping leads to inaccurate judgments.

Overall, Blink is an insightful book that offers readers a new way to think about thinking.

Pros

  • Gladwell makes a strong case for the power of first impressions and split-second decisions.
  • The book is full of fascinating stories and examples.
  • Very easy to read due to Gladwell’s famous writing style.

Cons

  • Some of the stories and examples are a bit far-fetched.
  • Gladwell does not always clearly distinguish between science and opinion.

Bottom line

Blink is an interesting and thought-provoking book about the power of first impressions.

It’s an easy read, with Gladwell’s trademark use of storytelling to illustrate his points.

Read my summary of the book here.

3. Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

In his book Nudge, Richard H. Thaler explores the role of nudges in human decision-making.

A nudge is defined as a small, seemingly inconsequential change that can nonetheless have a significant impact on behavior.

The book discusses how we are often irrational in our decision-making, and how this can lead to suboptimal outcomes.

Thaler and his co-author Cass R. Sunstein argue that nudges can be used to facilitate better decisions in all areas of life, from personal finance to health and safety.

For instance, the book discusses how changing the default option on a retirement plan from opt-in to opt-out can lead to a significant increase in participation.

It also discusses how we can use mental accounting to make better decisions with our money.

The book draws on a wide range of research in psychology and economics to show how even small changes can lead to big results.

In addition, readers are offered practical advice on how to design effective nudges.

Overall, Nudge provides valuable insights into the power of behavioral science.

Pros

  • The book is based on cutting-edge research in psychology and economics.
  • Thaler and Sunstein’s writing is clear and engaging.
  • The book provides practical advice for designing effective nudges.

Cons

  • The information may be overwhelming for some readers.
  • The book lacks a clear structure and jumps around slightly.

Bottom line

Nudge is a fascinating and informative book about how small changes in our environment can lead to big improvements in our behavior.

It’s well-written and packed with useful information.

4. The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam

In The Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam explores the role of unconscious biases in our decision-making.

He draws on a wide range of examples, from the U.S. criminal justice system to the housing market, to illustrate how these biases can have a profound impact on individuals and society as a whole.

Vedantam also offers insights into how we can begin to mitigate the effects of these biases, ultimately leading to fairer, more just outcomes.

The book is divided into three main sections: “The Rational Brain,” “The Affective Brain,” and “The Social Brain.”

In each section, Vedantam uses case studies and real-world examples to explore how our hidden biases can lead us astray.

He begins by looking at how our brain’s natural tendencies toward confirmation bias and self-justification can distort our view of reality.

He then turns to the role of emotions in decision-making, showing how they can sometimes override our logic and reason.

Finally, he examines how social factors such as conformity and groupthink can influence our choices in ways we may not even be aware of.

Throughout the book, Vedantam weaves in fascinating stories and historical anecdotes to illustrate his points.

Pros

  • The book provides insights into how we can mitigate the effects of our biases.
  • The book is well-researched and draws on a wide range of examples.
  • Vedantam’s arguments are engaging.

Cons

  • Might not offer anything new for seasoned social psychology readers.
  • Not all of the author’s assertions are convincing.

Bottom line

The Hidden Brain is a fascinating and informative book about how our unconscious biases can impact our decision-making.

Understanding these subconscious influences is the first step in mastering our responses and resulting behavior.

5. The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin

The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin is a comprehensive guide to understanding how the mind works and how to better organize one’s thoughts.

Levitin begins by discussing the history of the study of the mind, tracing it back to the work of early philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato.

He then turns to the latest research in neuroscience, showing how our understanding of the brain has advanced significantly in recent years.

This research has revealed that the mind is far more complex than we ever imagined, and that there are many different ways to organize our thoughts.

Levitin provides practical advice for how to best use this new understanding of the mind to improve our lives.

He covers topics such as time management, decision-making, and memory, offering concrete tips for how we can all become more efficient and productive people.

Whether you’re looking to boost your career or simply get your life in order, The Organized Mind is an essential read.

Pros

  • The book is based on cutting-edge research in neuroscience.
  • A good reminder of how to cope with excessive information in the digital age.
  • The book offers practical advice for improving one’s life.

Cons

  • Material could have been condensed.
  • The book diverges from its main theme at times.

Bottom line

The Organized Mind is a fascinating and informative book about how the mind works and how to better organize our thoughts.

Read my summary of the book here.

Summary

In a world which is sinking in information, it’s never been more important to interpret data effectively to make rational, informed choices.

Reading the book recommendations above can improve self-awareness, problem-solving and decision-making for real-world results.

Understanding how our minds work in this way will undoubtedly help us live happier lives.