William Collins splashes seven figures on Kahneman's book about noise

William Collins splashes seven figures on Kahneman's book about noise

William Collins has struck a pre-emptive seven-figure deal for a new book by psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.

Noise is jointly written by 84-year-old Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Nudge author, Cass R Sunstein, and will explore “chance variability in people’s judgments”.

Arabella Pike, publishing director at the HarperCollins non-fiction imprint, bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Max Brockman of Brockman, Inc as part of a seven-figure pre-empt. Little, Brown will publish simultaneously in the US in 2020 with rights sold in 24 countries.

Noise builds on Kahneman's work on inconsistent decision-making, following the completion of his landmark 2011 book Thinking Fast and Slow (Penguin), which has sold 555,917 copies in the UK for £4.5m, according to Nielsen BookScan.

The book will explore an "important and widely neglected source of human error", one that takes a serious toll in terms of money and lives, leads to pervasive unfairness in society and reduces the quality of judgements and decisions everywhere, according to a William Collins spokesperson.

Errors of judgment loom large in our lives, even when the stakes are high, the blurb reads. The book argues that many errors occur because of chance variability in people’s judgments. Kahneman, Sibony, and Sunstein refer to this chance variability as noise in judgment, or simply ‘noise’. Noise can be found whenever people make judgments and decisions, according to a William Collins spokesperson. However, individuals and organisations are “commonly oblivious to the influence of chance on their actions” and how decisions would have been made differently without chance variation.

The book suggests that the choices we make, whether by leaders or by decision-making groups or by individuals, are “profoundly affected” by noise.

Israeli-born Kahneman is the emeritus professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and has written about noise in a variety of publications including an essay ‘How to Overcome the High, Hidden Cost of Inconsistent Decision Making’ for the Harvard Business Review.

His previous book Thinking Fast and Slow, which integrated psychological research into economic science, focused on human judgment and decision making under uncertainty. It built on research that Kahneman conducted over decades, often in collaboration with his friend, psychologist Amos Tversky, who died in 1996.

Sibony is a professor, writer, and advisor specialising in the quality of strategic thinking and the design of decision processes. He teaches at HEC Paris business school and is an associate fellow of Saïd Business School in Oxford University. Previously he worked at McKinsey & Company for 25 years.

Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard and recently won the 2018 Holberg prize, presented annually to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to research in the arts, humanities, the social sciences, law or theology. He wrote 2008 psychology book Nudge (Penguin) with Richard H Thaler and The World According to Star Wars (HarperCollins), about what the film series reflects about law, society and politics.

Pike described it as a “privilege” to be publishing Noise.

She said: “We have all had to make important decisions whilst feeling pressured - time, contrary opinions, the need to juggle work and home commitments. Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein are three of the greatest thinkers of our time, and I believe Noise will be the key book to help us negotiate the competing demands that affect decision making in all its forms, with far-reaching applications for all of us.”

The authors said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be working with William Collins on this project, which will, we hope, speak not only to organisations both large and small, but also to people in their daily lives.”