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Why Choose This Book?: How We Make Decisions Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 2, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Montague begins in a somewhat surprising place, the efficiency of the brain. Most people who have thought about this issue tend to regard the brain as something of a kludge; slow, inefficient, and jerry-rigged by evolutionary compromises. Montague argues well that this impression is not correct. Rapid processing can be purchased only at the cost of high energy expenditure. Montague argues that proportional to energy expenditure, mammalian brains are remarkably efficient.
Montague then moves on to describe some of the most impressive recent results in neuroscience; the discovery of the role of dopamine signaling in reinforcement learning. This discovery represented a remarkable convergence of theory and experimental results. Montague explains this phenomenon well and discusses how this phylogenetically ancient mechanism emerged to respond to basic rewards and was probably coopted to serve more general functions. Montague discusses the closely related topic of valuation and its probable mechanisms and functional circuitry, then concludes with some more speculative discussions of learning and aspects of social behavior including altruism.Read more ›
The book is not an easy-read in terms of the depth of the material covered (no reputable author would try to dumb this material down to a Cliff's note version). The discussion is mostly engaging, though sometimes, the topics change quite abruptly. The chapters do not necessarily seem to be seamlessly transitioned, and it would have served the reader, if the author summarized the main observations more clearly in each chapter. Despite these minor irritations, the book is a treasure trove for anyone interested in this field, though may not be sufficient for a serious student in this field. The end notes are well organized and detailed. An excellent read for a patient, curious reader. 4.5 stars
There is a way to be both popular, highly informative, and accurate. Montague has not found the way. He has no qualms about saying things that are either obviously false. Obvious: "So choice is about relative value, and relative valuation arose because life runs on batteries, energy is limited, and there's no free lunch." (p. 225) Obviously false: "Efficiency = the best long-term returns from the least immediate investment." (p. 18). Indeed, so much of what he says in this book is obvious that I often found myself bored and distracted.
On page 103, Montague describes the neural mechanism that effects the integration of disparate signals concerning the value of various actions. However, there is absolutely no attempt to describe the neural processes involved. I understand that the biochemistry of the brain is complex, but it would still be nice to have a chapter on basic brain structure, a second on signaling, etc. The material in this section should be heavily diagramed, and perhaps even a simple equation or two illustrating the real neural processes involved in choice. Montague is obviously afraid that if he goes to deeply in the material, he will lose the reader, or the reader's attention. But, this is not necessarily the case.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I picked this up because I liked the book flap, which led me to believe it would be similar to Freakomomics -- an attempt to make some interesting concepts accessible to a lay... Read morePublished on July 20, 2008 by R. Gale
Montague makes connections in this book that I have not read elsewhere. He postulates that the drive to conserve energy -- to be efficient -- is what drives all living things. Read morePublished on February 16, 2008 by Carolyn Thornlow
Read Montague is a G.D. brain science genius! If I were on "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" he'd be my life line! Come on! Read morePublished on January 9, 2008 by S. Hill
I found the book to be interesting, presenting many ideas about cognitive function that seem novel and even new. Read morePublished on August 7, 2007 by Andrew Ledvina
I really enjoyed this book, because I am interested in the brain and why we make decisions. Overall it used language I could understand, and made great connections between the... Read morePublished on June 29, 2007 by Read
This indepth study of how the brain works is written so that the average person can understand it. Dr. Read morePublished on June 26, 2007 by Georgia girl
Read Montague is probably a very intelligent man, but he is not a very good writer. In an attempt to popularize a very challenging area, he adops a rather breathless style. Read morePublished on June 9, 2007 by Steven Matthias
I am only part way through this book but I am so excited by it that I've already had to get googling to find out more about the worlds it is beginning to uncover. Read morePublished on March 31, 2007 by Liz