Sharp and original, this book should alter how readers look at the world.

VISUAL INTELLIGENCE

SHARPEN YOUR PERCEPTION, CHANGE YOUR LIFE

A comprehensive guide to seeing what others do not, distilled from art historian Herman’s acclaimed seminar The Art of Perception.

A few years ago, an image of a lung X-ray went viral due to the fact that 83 percent of radiologists who examined it failed to note something obvious: a 2-inch cartoon of a gorilla superimposed over the right lobe. Psychologists call this effect “inattentional blindness,” suggesting that when our brains focus exclusively on a certain task, such as evaluating a lung scan for cancerous tumors, other details can fade to the background even when they are literally right in front of you. The author takes it one step further. “The ability to see, to pay attention to what is often readily available right in front of us,” she writes, “is not only a means to avert disaster but also the precursor and prerequisite to great discovery.” Since developing her seminar at The Frick Collection in 2000, she has used famous works of art to coach FBI agents, physicians, CEOs, and police officers to enhance their abilities to observe their surroundings and effectively articulate what they see. In converting her lectures to this fascinating book, Herman convincingly argues that closely analyzing works of art is an empowering exercise that translates to seeing the 'hidden' clues in many real-life scenarios. Perhaps most compelling are the author’s descriptions of actual crime scenes that were only solved because someone noticed the right detail—a pair of inside-out pants, a whirling ceiling fan—when most people missed it. Yet despite her expert clientele, Herman amply demonstrates that tapping into an inner Sherlock Holmes isn’t only a skill for investigators and that heightened observation is critical to communicating effectively, empathizing with others, and making informed decisions. With practice, she argues, everyone has an innate “visual intelligence” waiting to be refined.

Sharp and original, this book should alter how readers look at the world.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-38105-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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