‘How to Think’: A Summary (2023)

The goal of the book is to help us learn to interrogate our instincts and intuitions by examining the social, emotional, linguistic, and (necessarily) reductionistic way our intuitive thinking works.

IntroductionTakeaway: How we are incentivized not to think.

Using psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s terms from Thinking, Fast and Slow, Jacobs outlines two ‘systems’ of thinking: ‘System 1’ is ‘intuitive thinking, the fast kind (p. 16). ‘System 2’ is ‘conscious reflection’, the slow kind of thinking (p. 16). ‘We go through life basically running System 1; System 2 kicks in only when we perceive a problem, an inconsistency, an anomaly that needs to be addressed’ (pp. 16-17). Psychologist Jonathan Haidt compares ‘intuitive thinking’ to an elephant, and ‘conscious decision-making’ to a ‘rider’; ‘intuitive thinking is immensely powerful and has a mind of its own, but can be gently steered— by a rider who is truly skillful and understands the elephant’s inclinations’ (p. 17).The aim of the book is to help us understand the way ‘System 1’ works, the inclinations of our intuitive thinking, so that we can employ System 2 properly to evaluate it.

Why we don’t want to think (exact words from p. 17):

  1. Thinking troubles us

  2. Thinkingtires us

  3. Thinking can force us out of familiar, comforting habits

  4. Thinking can complicate our lives

  5. Thinking can set us at odds, or at least complicate our relationships, with those qw admire or love or follow

  6. Thinking is slow


Marilyn Robinson, writing on why Puritans are almost always referenced in a negative light, suggests that we have a ‘collective eagerness to disparage without knowledge or information’ ‘when the reward is the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved’ (pp. 20-21).

T. S. Elliot wrote that ‘…”when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts” ’ (p. 22).

‘The person who wants to think will have to practice patience and master fear’ (p. 23).

Chapter 1: Beginning to ThinkTakeaway: How thinking is social and emotional, not just analytical. Thinking is necessarily social. Thinking is not simply analytical. Thinking is emotional.‘…one must have a certain kind ofcharacter: one must be a certain kind of person, a person who has both the ability and the inclination to take the products of analysis and re-assemble them into a positive account, a structure not just of thought but also of feelings that, when joined to thought, can produce meaningful action’ (p. 43).

‘…when your feelings are properly cultivated, when that part of your life is strong and healthy, then your responses to the world will be adequateto what the world is really life’ (p. 44).

Chapter 2: AttractionsTakeaway: How the desire to belong makes us lazy or evil. Haidt argues that ‘moral intuitions’ bindand blind.‘ “People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind toalternative moral worlds.”“Moral matrices bind peopletogether and blind them to thecoherence, or evenexistence, of othermatrices” ‘ (p. 55).

C. S. Lewis’ ‘Inner Ring’ is a helpful way of describing how the terror of being excluded from a desired group makes a person ‘ “who is not yet very bad…do very bad things” ‘(p. 56).

Friendships are different than an ‘Inner Ring’ because they are not formed for the purpose of being exclusive; the exclusion is a by-product. They do not view their bond as making them superior.

Friendships matter, especially in formative seasons.

‘The genuine community is open to thinking and questioning…’ (p. 59).

‘The only remedy for the dangers of false belonging is the true belonging to, true membership in, a fellowship of people who are not so much like-minded as like-hearted’ (p. 62).

(Video) 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow | Lifehack

Chapter 3: RepulsionsTakeaway: How the will to survive leads to the hatred of others and closes our minds.

Sometimes we are pushed to a way of thinking because of a repulsion to a particular group. The ‘desire to punish the outgrip is significant stronger’ than ‘the desire support the in-group’ (p. 73).

Avoid what C. S. Lewis calls ‘Bulverism’: ‘ “Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall” ‘ (p. 78).

The cure is to see a person not as an ‘other’ (who must be wrong),but as a ‘neighbor’ (p. 83).

The answer is not to eliminate attractionsand repulsions and to be ‘purely rational’. Antonio Damasio argues in Descartes’ Errorthat ‘when people have limited or nonexistent emotional responses to situations, whether through injury or congenital defect, their decision-making is seriously compromised’ (p. 84).

Biases ‘reduce the decision-making load on our conscious brains’ (p. 86).

Chapter 4: The Money of FoolsTakeaway: How the power of words (keywords, metaphors, and myths) keeps us from seeing different worlds.

Don’t let words carry too heavy of a load. They can provide helpful shortcuts, but be aware of the work you’re asking them to do.

Use your opponent’s own words instead of restating it in “other words”.

Jacobs highlights two metaphors from Robin Sloan to help with this. The first is‘method acting’, where you realize that‘in differentcircumstances you could be thatperson’ (p. 111).The other metaphor is that of‘dual booting’, where a computer can run twodifferent operating systems. Jacobs writes,‘Somethingsimilar happenswhen you try outsomeone else’s vocabulary: you experience the world fromwithin that mode of describing it, with a new set of“terministic screens”, and somethings you’re used to seeing disappear from view while new and different ones suddenly becomevisible’ (p. 112).

Chapter 5: The Age of LumpingTakeaway: How taxonomies prevent information overload and create solidarity, but can lead to oppression if we don’t remember that taxonomies are provisional and if we fail to see the individual.


Taxonomies– the sorting of things into categories– is part of ordering the world. But the creation of social taxonomies is ‘a form of myth making’, so ‘we absolutely must remember what those taxonomies are: temporary, provisional intellectual structures whose relevant will not always be what it is, or seems to be, today’ (p. 119).

We must also practice ‘splitting’— the ‘disciplined, principled preference for rejecting categories whenever we discern them at work’ (p. 121). Be careful when you are tempted to explain something in someone as being because they are a member of a particular group and not because that is who they are as an individual.

Chapter 6: Open and ShutTakeaway: How keeping an open mind is not possible, but closing it is dangerous.

One cannot have a perpetually open mind. The object of opening one’s mind is not simply to have it open, but rather, as Chesterton noted, it is like ‘ “the opening of the mouth” ‘— the object is ‘ “to shut it again on something solid” ‘ (p. 126).

The goal is to be neither indifferent nor indecisive, but to have ‘the mental flexibility and honesty to adjust our views when the facts change’ (p. 127).

One of the biggest obstacles to being open to alternative views and narratives is the ‘sunk cost’ bias. ‘The more people have invested in a particular project, the more reluctant they are to abandon it, no matter how strong the evidence indicating that it’s a lost cause’ (p. 129). This eventually leads to doubling down, what scholars call ‘ “escalation of commitment” ‘ in the face of sunk costs (p. 129).

A fanatic is someone who avoids ‘considering any alternative to their preferred views’; ‘no matter happens, it proves [their] point’ (p. 136).

Look for signs of this in your group of friends. One giveaway that they are an unhealthy group (perhaps an ‘Inner Ring’) is if they have closed attitudes toward ‘ideas from the outgroup’ (p.138).

Chapter 7: A Person, ThinkingLearn fluency in another ‘dialect’. Imagine yourself in a different set of plausibility structures to see that your views are not necessarily inevitable.

Nevertheless, one cannot thrive in a constant state of evaluating the ‘truth-condusiveness of your social world’. Instead, follow the advice of W. H. Auden: ‘ “The same rules apply to self-examination as apply to auricular confession: Be brief, be blunt be gone.” ‘

The Thinking Person’s Checklist(pp. 155-156):

(Video) 5 tips to improve your critical thinking - Samantha Agoos

  1. When faced with provocation to respond to what someone has said, give it five minutes…

  2. Value learning over debating…

  3. …avoid the people who fan the flames.

  4. Remember that you don’t have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your future and right-mindedness.

  5. If youdohave to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right-mindedness, or else lose your status in your community, then you should realize that it’s not a community but rather an Inner Ring.

  6. Gravitate…toward people who seem to value genuine community and can handle disagreement with equanimity.

  7. Seek out the best and fairest-minded of people whose views you disagree with…

  8. Patiently, and as honestly as you can, assess your repugnances.

  9. Sometimes the ‘ick factor’ is telling; sometime’s it’s a distraction from what matters.

  10. Beware of metaphors and myths that do too much heavy cognitive lifting…

  11. Try to describe others’ positions in the language thattheyuse…

    (Video) नकारात्मक सौंच हटाउने 6 Best उपायहरु | The Power of Positive Thinking Summary | Nepali Book Summary

  12. Be brave.


How do you think Summary? ›

In this smart, endlessly entertaining book, Jacobs diagnoses the many forces that act on us to prevent thinking—forces that have only worsened in the age of Twitter, “alternative facts,” and information overload—and he also dispels the many myths we hold about what it means to think well.

How to Think more Effectively book Summary? ›

1-Sentence-Summary: How to Think More Effectively delves into the subject of thinking mechanisms and cognitive processes, and explores how you can think more efficiently and draw better insights from the world around you by adopting a few key practices, such as filtering your thoughts or prioritizing work.

How to think chapter 2 Summary? ›

In Chapter 2, “Attractions,” the author considers what draws us to some groups, how moral intuitions drive thinking, and the appeal of the “Inner Ring” versus the appeal of healthy communities. Jacobs also addresses being people of integrity in our disagreements, negotiating, and knowing what's non-negotiable.

How do you write a chapter summary? ›

There are five key steps that can help you to write a summary:
  1. Read the text.
  2. Break it down into sections.
  3. Identify the key points in each section.
  4. Write the summary.
  5. Check the summary against the article.
Nov 23, 2020

What is the main point of summary? ›

A main point summary reads much like an article abstract, giving the most important "facts" of the text. It should identify the title, author, and main point or argument. When relevant, it can also include the text's source (book, essay, periodical, journal, etc.).

How do you think like a freak summary? ›

Thinking like a Freak means identifying the root cause of a problem, rather than attempting to build solutions that focus on obvious, though often incorrect, “causes.” For a variety of reasons, root causes are often not apparent or palatable, thus we often focus on treating the symptoms or behaviors that we think are ...

How can I be a better reader and thinker? ›

You can become better at reading by reading a little bit every day. At first, it could be a short article or a thriller book. Later on, try more complicated and involved reading materials like philosophy or literature. It's also good practice to take notes about the books you read and put ideas from them into practice.

How can I be a perfect reader? ›

How to become a better reader?
  1. Don't be afraid to stop reading a book you don't like. ...
  2. Set aside time to read books that are more demanding. ...
  3. Read actively / critically / don't skim. ...
  4. Keep a dictionary close to you. ...
  5. Always have books nearby. ...
  6. Always have a reading list. ...
  7. Read what you want, not what you think you should.

Why I Write Joan Didion summary? ›

Acting as both a personal narrative and a reflection, the essay describes Didion's unique creative method and details the reasons why she became a writer. In order to demonstrate her creative process, Didion describes the inspiration behind two of her novels, Play It As It Lays and A Book of Common Prayer.

Who Do You think You Are book summary? ›

Born into the back streets of a small Canadian town, Rose battled incessantly with her practical and shrewd stepmother, Flo, who cowed her with tales of her own past and warnings of the dangerous world outside. But Rose was ambitious - she won a scholarship and left for Toronto where she married Patrick.

How you do anything is how you do everything book summary? ›

“How you do anything is how you do everything” is about having a powerhouse mindset. If your attitude about the product or service you're delivering is “good enough” or “no one will notice my mistake anyway,” then you signal to others, even subconsciously, that you don't really respect your own work.

How do you make your own mind summary? ›

In How to Own Your Mind, you receive a one-of-a-kind master class in how to think for success from motivational pioneer and author of Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. In three compelling chapters, Hill demonstrates how to organize, prioritize, and act on information so that it translates into opportunity.


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