A Fast Tribute to Big ‘Thinking’

Honoring the late Daniel Kahneman

Emily Thor
Insights Director

Daniel Kahneman was not a market researcher. Nor was he an economist—the field for which he won his Nobel Prize—but his research as a psychologist dramatically shifted the way researchers in many fields continue to think about human decision-making.

Market researchers seek to understand consumer behavior and trends. Kahneman’s theories help market researchers, like us at CMB, examine the decisions humans make every day, and why they make them. Before him, there was a long-held assumption that humans did things rationally, and for reasons known to them. But much like Freud’s infamous breakthrough evidence that humans have thought below their awareness, Kahneman and his collaborators believed that humans do not always think intentionally, nor do they make decisions based on traditional self-serving logic, especially financial decisions.


Kahneman’s popular work, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” (a well-loved book that sits precariously with its cracked spine behind me on my video calls) posited two different systems of thought: the fast brain and the slow brain, or Systems 1 and 2. The fast brain, System 1, thinks quickly and intuitively, with little effort or control. The slow brain, System 2, thinks deliberately, consciously. Both systems are relied upon every day to make choices about our daily lives, some rationally, some emotionally, and others still unknown to us.

These theories explored within Thinking Fast and Slow have been extremely influential to the research I have done throughout my career, and that I am proud to do every day at CMB.

At CMB, we leverage the best of consumer psychology to tackle our clients’ game-changing initiatives based on a rich understanding of predictably irrational humans (a la Dan Ariely).  Every day, researchers at CMB ask questions, both explicitly and implicitly, to ensure we are capturing conscious motivations as well as underlying bias. We delve deeply into human emotion with granularity, interpreting both valence and activation, and its relevance on stated needs and wants. Questions are worded in both our quantitative and qualitative research such that the fast brain can respond with impulse, or such that the slow brain can deliberate – depending on our research goals.


Kahneman was known for his earnest spirit of collaboration: you almost never hear mention of Kahneman’s work in a vacuum. His name is almost always followed or preceded by other great thinkers like Amos Tversky, Anne Treisman, or Richard Thaler.  If you’ve ever worked with us at CMB, you know about our collaborative culture, too. We determine research goals via partnering deeply in collaboration with our fellow CMBers and clients.

Kahneman was known especially for collaborating with those who disagreed with him, hoping it would help get a little closer to the truth (and maybe even make an enemy into a friend along the way). At CMB, we never shy away from respectful and collaborative disagreement, constantly looking to improve our research and the recommendations that come out of it.

We help our partners make critical business decisions with confidence, and we do it better not only because of the smart, curious, creative, collaborative people we work with, but also because of the giant shoulders on which our research stands: like that of Presidential Medal of Freedom winning researchers like Daniel Kahneman.

If you’d like to learn more about how we leverage prevailing psychological research like Kahneman’s at CMB, and how our psychological lens can improve your market research needs, please reach out to us here. Let’s make an impact.

Daniel Kahneman passed away in late March 2024; may he rest in peace.

Emily Thor
Insights Director