A fascinating overview of the thinking process

Most people have a limited understanding of the ideas that shape the way we think, according to Denise Cummins in her book Good Thinking: Seven Powerful Ideas that Influence the Way We Think. Lawyers understand argumentation, stockbrokers understand decision theories that drive equity markets, psychologists understand how the brain is wired, and scientists understand scientific investigation, but very few people have an understanding of all of these fields.

The seven ideas which the book discusses are:

  • Rational choice, which means making decisions aimed at producing the most desired outcome.
  • Game theory, which involves making decisions which are affected by the simultaneous decisions of other people.
  • Moral judgment, which includes identifying what is right and what is wrong.
  • Scientific reasoning, which includes the use of reason to determine causality, and also the construction and testing of hypotheses.
  • Logic, which involves discerning truth from a series of propositions.
  • Problem solving, which means searching for solutions which produce a desired result.
  • Analogical reasoning, which is about using one situation to help explain another.

In pursuing these different aspects of thinking, the author takes the reader on a journey through an extraordinary range of disciplines including economics, cognitive science, philosophy, morality, mathematics, experimental science, theoretical science, law and business management. We get to see how easily and frequently people are misled into making poor decisions, different ways in which people distinguish right from wrong, the most effective ways of testing hypotheses, and how insights really happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, which I found to be as entertaining as it is informative. Most readers will benefit by having their understanding of what is meant by “thinking” considerably broadened by the book’s cross-disciplinary approach.

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