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I have been reading Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow. Kahneman is a psychologist who won the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 2002 for his work on judgements and decision-making. With Amos Tevsky, to whom the book is dedicated, he developed prospect theory as an improvement on expected utility theory as an explanation of decision-making in economics. They had earlier proposed the heuristics and biases model of intuitive judgements. In his later work Kahneman has developed the idea that measuring well-being is problematic because there are two selves in play, an experiencing self and a remembering self, and they don’t agree, raising some interesting questions about the pursuit of happiness.

Two academic papers are included as appendices, but the book itself is written for non-specialists. The target is water cooler conversation and gossip. We are mostly good intuitive grammarians, but we are not good intuitive statisticians or logicians. In order to recognise our mistakes we need, Kahneman suggests, on the analogy with medicine, a set of precise diagnostic labels where the labels bind illness and symptoms, possible antecedents and causes, possible developments and consequences, possible interventions and cures. With these to hand, we can improve our recognition of errors and possible create counter-measures.

Kahneman proposes a two systems model of the mind. System 1, or fast thinking, is the intuitive mind. It operates quickly and automatically and without effort, generating impressions, feelings and intentions. However, it is also impulsive and impatient. System 2, or slow thinking, is who we think we are. System 2, is the introspective mind, the mind which consciously reasons. Introspection requires attention and effort but system 2 is lazy, possesses limited knowledge and makes mistakes. Most of the time it is content to endorse the impressions, feelings and intentions generated by system 1.

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During our recent trip to Ankara we visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations (*). The museum houses artefacts from the Palaeolithic through to the modern period, including the finds at Çatalhöyük, the most important Neolithic site, and Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite state.

Çatalhöyük is south of present day Konya in southern Turkey and at the northern edge of the Levant where agriculture in Europe originated. The site at  Çatalhöyük was occupied between 9,500 and 7,700 years ago. Unlike modern villages, the public space was the rooftop, from which the building was accessed by ladder or steps. There is evidence of the domestication of sheep and cattle as well as hunting. There is also evidence of the use of woven cloth to wrap the dead. The artworks produced include murals and figurines, such as the massive women giving birth. There is little sign of social stratification. The dwellings are of similar size and there is no obvious ceremonial centre.

Something I hadn’t appreciated before visiting the museum is that the sedentary lifestyle preceded farming rather than being a consequence of it. The sedentary lifestyle is thought to have originated in the Levant in what is called the Natufian period between 15,000 and 11,800 years ago. Although still a hunter gatherer economy, the sedentary lifestyle was made possible here by very favourable conditions. The hypothesis is that farming first developed in the Near East as a response to a period of colder weather between 12,200 and 10,800 years ago and then later spread across Europe, westwards and northwards, between 8,500 and 6,500 years ago.

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