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Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives [Kindle Edition]

Dean Buonomano
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Excellent. . . . [Buonomano] reveals the intricate limitations and blessings ?of the most complex device in the known universe.”—The Atlantic

The human brain may be the best piece of technology ever created, but it’s far from perfect. Drawing on colorful examples and surprising research, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano exposes the blind spots and weaknesses that beset our brains and lead us to make misguided personal, professional, and financial decisions. Whether explaining why we are susceptible to advertisements or demonstrating how false memories are formed, Brain Bugs not only explains the brain’s inherent flaws but also gives us the tools to counteract them.

Editorial Reviews


"Writing a book about the hardware and software flaws of the human brain is an ingenious idea, and Buonomano has fully delivered on its promise. To a degree that is difficult for most of us to imagine, much less understand, our successes and failures, joys and sufferings, are the product of protein interactions and electrical changes taking place inside our heads. Brain Bugs is a remarkably accessible and engaging introduction to the neuroscience of the human condition."
Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Moral Landscape, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The End of Faith

"In Brain Bugs, Dean Buonomano has brilliantly pulled off what few psychological scientists can do. In elegant and clear writing, he masterfully conveys the astonishing capability of the human mind, along with its flaws and limitations. Only when we fully understand our ‘bugs' will we be able to make the best financial, political, marital, and other decisions that are so important in shaping our lives."
Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Eyewitness Testimony

"What a great book, filled with nuggets about how the brain works-and falters-and even some suggestions on how to put it to better use. Very enjoyable."
Joseph LeDoux, New York University neuroscientist and author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self.

"He takes readers on a lively tour of systematic biases and errors in human thinking, citing examples that are staples of psychology courses and other popular books. What is new, however, is Buonomano’s focus on the mechanisms of memory, especially its "associative architecture," as the main causes of the brain’s bugs."
Christopher Chabris, New York Times

"What makes the book all the more compelling is the lucidity with which Buonomano recognizes, amidst its weaknesses, the brain's insurmountable strengths, feats artificial intelligence is ages from reaching--most notably, its remarkable penchant for pattern-recognition and what Buonomano calls "the inherent and irrepressible ability of the brain to build connections and make associations." And whatever we may say of the future of the Internet and technology, even our most optimistic predictions pale in comparison to the remarkable information processes taking place, quite literally, under our very roofs. (And, if we're really keeping score, Buonomano points out that the brain's 90 billion neurons linked by 100 trillion synapses far surpass the web's 20 billion web pages connected by 1 trillion links.)"
Maria Popova, The Atlantic

"One of the things I liked most about this book was the way it leaps from neuron to brain and then to person and on to society and back again, making useful comparisons all the way. ... You won’t eliminate the bugs in your brain by reading this book – we have no delete button for memories or the emotions that lead us astray – but you will understand them better."
Susan Blackmore, Focus Magazine

About the Author

Dean Buonomano is a professor in the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology and the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Product Details

  • File Size: 909 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393076024
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 6, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0054LXX5O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,414 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review July 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: As much as we rely on our brains to navigate the complex world before us, anyone who has ever forgotten someone's name, or misread a situation, or made a poor decision in the heat of the moment knows that the brain does not always work as we would want. In his new book `Brain Bugs', neurobiologist Dean Buonomano explores the brain's many pitfalls and mistakes (and how and why it makes them), and also offers up some advice on how we can best manage these so called `brain bugs' in our everyday lives.

Buonomano identifies 3 major sources whence brain bugs originate. The first has to do with the fact that our brains are the product of evolution, and have evolved as they have to answer the specific challenges that we faced in our evolutionary history; therefore, while our brains may be well adapted to perform functions that were particularly important in our survival and reproduction in the environment in which our species evolved, they may not do as well at functions which, though handy, did not figure as prominently in our evolutionary past (remembering names seems to fall under this category). The second source of our brain bugs may be attributed to the fact that while evolution has brought us a host of useful mental abilities that have allowed us to survive and thrive, it is still a rather clumsy process, and as such does not always offer up perfect, or even optimal solutions; thus the mental systems that we have are sometimes prone to error and quirky behaviour (hence optical illusions, the ever raging and somewhat awkward battle between our reason and our impulses, and a number of other interesting effects).
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51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better popular science books to be had out there. August 12, 2011
While covering a very interesting topic by a undoubtedly talented author, the book falls short of other similar books in the field of psychology. The author's writing is very slow to start, dancing around the same topic endless without exploring it in depth or giving concrete real world examples. This is somewhat remedied near the end of the book but 70 pages could be cut from the book and express the same ideas clearly.

As regular reader of popular science psychology books, I thought my opinion of the book might have been tainted by nostalgia and familiarity with the concepts but upon rereading passages from previous books I found that this was not the case. If you are looking for more enjoyable books in the same area I suggest reading:

Stumbling on Happiness
The Paradox of Choice
How we Decide
Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior

All of the above provide a more enjoyable experience by engaging the reader with interesting in-book activities and well paced writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book! November 4, 2011
By Lisa
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent and thought provoking book about how the brain flaws influence
society at large. It not only was a fun read but very engaging and much to learn. Definitively recommend it!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book September 10, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read this book over a month ago and I haven't yet stopped thinking about it. It is a fascinating account of how the brain learns and associates ideas. The brain is continually manipulating data in order to make that data fit the brain's template of the world. This book redefined my opinion of what it means to learn.

The author uses the metaphor of a computer program to explain the hierarchy of the brain. The conscious brain acts as the main program, while the various facets of the unconscious brain are subroutines, which are called as required by the main. What an excellent metaphor.

The book contains several very good examples of brain "flaws" which the reader can perform. These demonstrations are entertaining and enlightening. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys playing with ideas.
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18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THINK July 24, 2011
By rosanne
Okay. Kenya? -Africa; colors of chess pieces? - black and white. So far so good. Animal - Don't think zebra, No! Think of something else, anything else. Finally, I gave up and admitted that it had to be ZEBRA - nothing else would come up - (unless, with great leaps, man is an animal and I could think about racial turmoil - But I didn't. After passing/failing the first little tidbit, I was hooked... went and got Dean Buonomano's Brain Bugs to find out what was going on with my brain and free will.

Although, I have not finished the book, I am fascinated by the clear explanations, analogies to things I think I can understand, and the dry wit and humor of his writing. He has made what could have been an arid, impenetrable subject come to life and mean something more than synapses and brain waves...and scientific gobbledy-gook.

Have to admit, now, that indeed we have brain bugs...and that most likely we will not be de-bugging any time soon.

This is a must book for anyone who really thinks he/she thinks or is self programmed. You're not.... Find out why. Read Brain Bugs .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gimcrack Brain Permanently Out of Order? November 7, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read this book when it first came out in hardback and found it intriguing. The book explains how our brains produce faulty memory and make multiple, other errors. Since the brain was made in a trial-and-error manner, it's no wonder that everything in it seems to operate under the same principle.

While the book does give the reader the idea he or she is not alone in having a quirky mind and memory, it offers no solution to the problem, which is the one problem I found with the book after I closed the back cover on it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful for only a general overview.
Brain Bugs is like a survey-level course into neuroscience, and the book promises little beyond identifying these so-called bugs. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Brain Bugs
I found the information interesting as I began to read this book, however, for me, it became intellectually challenging. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Karen
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
OMG had no idea thee was so much to understand about our brains and our conditioning!..Excellent book a must read to for self awareness!!!!
Published 8 months ago by L
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Very well written, and fun to read. Well researched, and just fascinating theories that give great insights to the mind.
Published 8 months ago by Lisa P.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best
Buonomano lays out wonderfully the faults, limitations and hiccups of how our brain works. As a PhD neuropharmacologist who has worked in this field fo over 20 years, I have a... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gary Keil
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read
This book will help it's readers be better critical thinkers. A lot of interesting phenomenon that we in this advertising, media age should be aware of. Read more
Published 10 months ago by abdul meskienyar
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, well-explained science, with practical implications
A good mix of science and stories. It starts more on the science side, and becomes more speculative tackling broader concepts. Fine.
Published 12 months ago by Andre Golard
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book on mental misfires
This is a review/summary -- a little long, sorry!

When Dean Buonomano named his book Brain Bugs he associated the human mind with computer glitches, an unfortunate irony... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Tintin
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow
Got this book for as a requirement text for one of my course but ended up liking it very much! Great book, really makes you think and is not your everyday, boring education book. Read more
Published 16 months ago by J. Moua
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging examination of highlights of neuroscience
This book investigates structural and procedural aspects of thought, imposed as evolutionary solutions to selection pressures. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Scot Potts
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More About the Author

Dean Buonomano is a professor in the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology, and a member of the Brain Research Institute, and the Integrative Center for Learning and Memory at UCLA.

His research focuses on the neural basis of learning, neural computations, and how the brain tells time. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

He has been interviewed about his research on timing and neural computation for Newsweek, Discover Magazine, Scientific American, Los Angeles Times, New Scientist, and The New Yorker.

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