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257 of 272 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best on the Topic
I've read many books on the topic of cognitive bias and this rates one of the best for the general reader. I'm endlessly fascinated by the topic and can't seem to stop reading these books even though there isn't a lot new in most of them. They all keep saying the same thing and I'm getting a little tired of it.

So I was quite surprised when this one seemed a...
Published on November 24, 2011 by Book Fanatic

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210 of 212 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent cognitive psych sampler.
This is another book in the increasingly popular genre of pop cognitive psychology. These books usually take the following approach:
1) Author reads tons of studies revealing brain quirks, failures, and surprising behavior.
2) Author attempts to tie some of these into related themes (Think Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink").
3) Author discusses the "lessons...
Published on May 17, 2012 by MonsoonKing


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast, Funny and Worthwile Read, January 8, 2013
This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
Condenses volumes of documented research into one enjoyable read. The ways in which we deceive (and communicate about) ourselves and others are subtle, significant and often at odds with what may actually be our best interest. This book covers the gamut of physical and psychological influences common in the course of everyday life, and it includes an extensive resource section with descriptions of why each item is of value. It gave me an elevated level of self-awareness and memorable tips on persuasion, both how to accomplish it and how to recognize its sway.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Examples But Weak Points, December 13, 2012
This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
I would have passed on this book if it wasn't for a "short review" on its back cover by Philip Zimbardo, whose works I admired. The title of this book and his Introduction was a huge turn-off for me. And, I am just not sure about the author's points where he could be lacking better understandings of the studies he presented, or where he wrote his conclusions way too fast without having to give these studies much attention. My feelings about this book was how it seemed to be "rushed" as if the author was in a hurry.

However, I found many of the examples and studies that the author shared were really fascinating and a food for thoughts. Many of the examples discussed about our bias, including confirmation bias, certainty bias, framing bias, intentional stance, hyperbolic discounting, obsessive rumination, counter-factual thinking, and so on. Indeed, they were a good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The meaning to life, August 12, 2012
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This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
I feel everyone who reads self help books are looking for some sort of meaning to life, books that add pieces to the puzzles that haunt our lives. Now your not going to cry after this book is over or become a super being, but it is a book about how powerful the mind can be and how you can tweek your thinking to make yourself accomplish whatever it is that you want in order to make your brain happy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, July 29, 2012
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Informative and interesting. DiSalvo presents the information in an easy-to-read format. I have a better understanding of how the brain functions, and how making the brain happy can block goal accomplishment. Normal human biases can certainly lead to distortion of reality and erroneous thinking. Recommend this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read and Some Easily Actionable Items, May 10, 2012
By 
Jeff Bennett (Bay Area California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
This book instructs one on how they themselves and others around them operate, and does so in a useful way. The more I run across the same experiments, the more I think we need more neuroscience and psychology experimenters to provide new content for all the authors referencing the same studies. That said, DiSalvo's approach is as meaningful as to what one might do to improve their lot as any I have seen. The book provided a great deal of new and useful insight to why these experiments matter and what actions might be worth trying out.

One interesting notion is that visualizing something is not that different to the brain than actually doing it. So, to gain confidence one might see hitting the ball far, for example. I wonder if this seeming truth might have the potential to helping us better follow what makes sense to the logical mind by using this to instruct the rest of the mind. The book points out many ways in which logic and reason are often ignored for something less effective. Perhaps this is a way to give the logical mind a bit more of a role when appropriate. Is this a testable possible seam in between the control issues of the rider to the elephant? If so, it seems worth experimenting and looks like it could be done.

Anyway, this book was instructive, interesting and provoked thought for me. The Suggested Resources section in the back of the book was a great inclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great and insightful book, July 8, 2014
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This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
One eye on neuroscience and the other on cognitive psychology,This book reveals what's "behind the curtain" when it comes to common self-defeating human behaviors. It turns out that the "oh what the hell" is a pre-wired response as is overconfidence about your ability to restrain yourself in the first place, thus the reason why "moderation" is tougher than plain ole abstinence. Is written in an engaging yet erudite style anyone can grasp.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cognitively Insightful yet Confusing, April 23, 2014
This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
Human psychology and behavioral science are very complex topics that many scientists and authors have tried to decipher. One person who shares his insights on human thinking is David DiSalvo. He is a science author who writes about the relationships between science, technology, and culture. To share his knowledge of psychology with the public, he blogs on the websites Neuropsyched at Forbes, and Neuronarrative at Psychology Today. DiSalvo’s work has also appeared in many prestigious magazines such as Psychology Today, The Wall Street Journal, and on TV shows like NBC Nightly News. But, his most successful work is his book What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, which has been translated into ten different languages. DiSalvo’s book offers “science-help” to assist the reader to understand what makes us really tick.

The author conveys to the reader the numerous and astonishing ways that the human mind confuses itself and makes ordinary tasks seem very difficult. By presenting a plethora of research, DiSalvo shows the reader that a "happy" brain leads to mistakes, biases, and distortions. With an engaging and elevated style, DiSalvo allows the reader to see the various shortcuts that the brain makes and how to recognize them. The author hopes to provide the reader with clues and evidence to overcome these shortcomings and work around the natural problems our brain has. This would allow us to live a more comfortable life.

One important topic covered in this book is certainty. Certainty, or being confident beyond doubt, is a state of being that humans always crave and want to keep. DiSalvo describes how ambiguity is an extremely uncomfortable state for our brains to be in. According to neuroscience research, uncertainty triggers the part in our brain that deals with threats (amygdala) and decreases brain activity that contributes to rewards (ventral straium). To get our brains away from this horrid state, humans need to be right and sometimes perform actions that are not necessarily justifiable but allow themselves to be certain beyond the facts.

The second error that the human mind makes occurs due to preframing. DiSalvo comments on how preframing trips up the brain when the norms and habits of a person influences the decisions they make in various situations. An individual will make choices based on what they have been exposed to, which causes them sometimes to choose incorrectly, even though that is what makes their brain “happy”.

Another topic covered in the book is how conformation bias and schemas relate to one another. Through the mental map of concepts, which is organized by association (schemas), humans tend to seek confirming evidence and reject evidence that does not endorse their thinking. This behavior happens very effortlessly and causes the brain to be fooled without it even knowing. These two habits can help us navigate a complex world, but they can also ignore significant information that does not confirm our thinking and is inconsistent with our beliefs. Since the brain is satisfied with being correct, it takes the easy way of thinking. This is seen though an example of the martial arts world and the “touchless attack”. These martial artists called Kiai masters claim that they can vanquish their adversaries without making contact with them. Followers of this technique claim that it actually works and have seen it in action. To silence the doubters of this skill, a Kiai master named Ryukerin offered to a $5,000 reward to anybody that could withstand his attack. Even though he lost this bet, Ryukerin did not lose followers to his cause even though it was proven with concrete evidence that he was a fraud. This proves the power of conformation bias because even in the face of substantial disconfirming proof, these people firmly held their beliefs and devotion to the Kiai masters’ martial art.

Another subject that DiSalvo explains is the social preferences of the brain and how these choices affect our nature. He shows that “happy brains” are predictable and defensive because of the brain’s preference to be more conservative when faced with a unknown situation. Because of this, the “happy brain” does not easily coincide with the irregularity that the social world brings and becomes very uncomfortable when humans are out of their element. Humans tend to side with the simple decisions that make us satisfied, even if these choices could be wrong. For instance, DiSalvo cites a experiment in which participants’ brain activity was monitored in the presence of an expert. Participants were given specific tasks to do and decisions to make, while being advised by an expert on the situation. The experiment showed that the participants did not work as hard (though brain scans) when there was an “expert” to counsel them. These subjects did not even think about if the expert was credible or even correct. The brain acted more conservatively in the presence of an unknown situation and the participants were happy to let other people do the work for them.
Furthermore, DiSalvo’s discussion on memory is very intriguing. Throughout our lives, the synapses in our brains are morphing depending on the need to translate different signals. This change happens through the experiences that we face in our lives. When present events turn into past memories, remembering these memories correctly is very challenging. DiSalvo states that our memories are wrong the same amount as they are right. In the same light, our memories are not concrete and can be altered by just about anything. When our brain wants to remember something, it fills in the pieces that are incomplete.

The last important topic that DiSalvo examines deals with modeling. The author explains modeling to the reader as when the brain is content, it is happy to copy behavior. This is automatic for our brains to do as opposed to being a voluntary response. If the brain is “happy”, it is difficult for the brain to effectively stop imitating. There are no limitations on imitation for the brain, which allows humans to be trapped in their own thinking. DiSalvo gives a brief example of this dealing with the bad types of modeling. He explains to the reader that bystanders become involved with bullying because their minds are happy to copy the terrible behavior. It does not matter if the behavior is good or bad, the only concept that the brain cares about is modeling after it.

This book is a fascinating compilation of research that shows how our brains can trick us into self-defeating behavior. It is a very eye-opening book that has the reader nodding in agreement over every study and behavior. One of these is the example of trust. A key feature of trust is that our minds want to extend it to an individual who has shown faith in us. For instance con artists who try to scam us, may principally offer us something of their own and recognize that there is a chance we could just take it and run, but trust us nonetheless. This activates a need in our mind to show that we reciprocate that trust and therefore leaves us vulnerable for manipulation and exploitation.

I enjoyed reading the extensive research presented by DiSalvo because it allowed me to see the little quirks that our brain has. It was amazing to see why humans do what they do. All of the research and studies captivated my mind as I noticed that my mind fits many of the cognitive patterns presented by DiSalvo.

Another positive that this book brings is that DiSalvo is not trying to claim that he holds the key to the perfect life. He desires for his reader to learn about all of the mechanisms our brains use to interpret behavior. He achieves his purpose for his book by allowing the reader to learn by themselves and keeping them interested in the different research that he presents. Our brain does some crazy things and the more the reader knows, the better the reader can work with it instead of against it. I liked the perspective that DiSalvo brought because he did not attempt to jam information down the reader’s throat. He only wanted to inspire the reader to learn.

Even though this book is great in its explanation of what makes our brain happy, it fails in describing why us as humans should do the opposite. DiSalvo’s research of what makes our minds content is extensive, but he does not provide the same focus on why humans should be opposed to this thinking. DiSalvo does not give enough support of why the reader should have a different way of thinking. I did not like this because I didn't feel immediately compelled to implement any changes in my life or way of thinking. DiSalvo’s book only gave illustrative anecdotes to how our brain acts and did not convince me on why, when my brain is “happy”, that I should do the opposite in what it is thinking. Furthermore, DiSalvo’s organization is not very clear. The topics of his book are randomly placed throughout and make his book read like a college textbook. The book is very broad and subjects are scattered in the book with no strong structure. I was really confused towards the end of the book because the thought process of the author is not clearly focused.

With all of this said, I would give this book three and a half out of five stars. What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite is a very intriguing book documenting and commenting on behavioral science and psychology. It was a helpful and humorous book, but it lacked cohesion, which made the book sometimes overwhelming. It provides the reader with fascinating research and insights, but needs support of why humans should think against the “happy brain”.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily understood science, and pretty cool stuff., December 22, 2013
By 
Sarah (Connecticut) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
Love this book. I find it less about what you should or shouldn't do, and more about understanding how our brain interprets things, and the pitfalls. The format is perfect for me. I don't want to wade through a whole dense book of science, but I love the little stand alone chapters. Or maybe they are more like articles. If you're at all interested in the brain, or know someone who likes science, or even science "lite" - this is a great gift. I also bought "This Will Make You Smarter" which is interesting in the same way, except that book is much more dense reading. You really have to like science to read that one. This book "what makes your brain.." is much more accessible and fun. Highly recommend it. I often go back and reread a section for fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars These are things everyone should know., December 8, 2013
By 
TREX "TREX" (Roanoke VA 24015) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite (Paperback)
I love books on how the brain works. This one is very good. Not as entertainingly written as "Stumbling into Happiness", but it comes close, and covers some of the same ideas supported in that book as well as others, in its own way. This book will help you to "know thyself" and others in a more realistic way than most psychological self help books. Our brain does some crazy things and the more we know, the better we can work with it instead of against it, and be a happier person in the process.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, interesting material, November 4, 2013
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This book was clearly written and entertaining from start to finish, while also quite informative. I read a lot of books on this topic, but I still learned new things. I also really appreciated the reading list and interesting studies at the end.
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What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by David DiSalvo (Paperback - November 22, 2011)
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