A delightful treatment of a subject many of us would prefer to ignore, gently subversive in its undermining of...

MIND OVER MONEY

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MONEY AND HOW TO USE IT

A comprehensive guide for bringing the power of money under control.

By her count, BBC Radio host Hammond (Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception, 2013, etc.) discusses 263 experiments by psychologists and neuroscientists that demonstrate how science can illuminate our many foibles and obsessions about money and deal with them effectively. The author—who has won awards from the British Psychological Society, the British Neuroscience Association, and other medical, psychological, and publishing associations for her contributions to the public understanding of science—reviews their insights, which range from the best ways to encourage children to improve their grades at school and teach them how to manage their pocket money to lessons about older, unconscious processes gleaned from Yale University’s work with token-managing monkeys. The primates, hoping for grapes, are taking part in experiments on loss aversion similar to those conducted on humans by neuroscientist Daniel Kahneman. “Just like humans, [the capuchins] seem to hate a loss” rather than seek the pleasure of a potential gain. Whether shopping or eating out, the motivation seems to be the same. Case studies illustrate how to make decisions about which kind of all-you-can-eat buffet to visit. Spending more for the buffet, for example, and really enjoying the food, works out better than eating from the cheaper spread. Pleasure, enjoyment, and good memories seem to be preferable as time passes, so for people who want to spend money on themselves, Hammond recommends buying “experiences rather than material goods.” In a practical, sometimes-amusing narrative, Hammond provides a valuable summary of work in psychology, behavioral economics, and more, and her numbered “Money Tips” are particularly helpful.

A delightful treatment of a subject many of us would prefer to ignore, gently subversive in its undermining of preconceptions and prejudices.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-231700-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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