- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 Reprint edition (January 14, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0547247990
- ISBN-13: 978-0547247991
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (311 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How We Decide Paperback – January 14, 2010
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The first book to use the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience to help us make the best decisions.
Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we blink and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind's black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they re discovering that this is not how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason and the precise mix depends on the situation. When buying a house, for example, it's best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we're picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.
Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edge research as well as the real-world experiences of a wide range of deciders from airplane pilots and hedge fund investors to serial killers and poker players. Lehrer shows how people are taking advantage of the new science to make better television shows, win more football games, and improve military intelligence. His goal is to answer two questions that are of interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better?
A Q&A with Jonah Lehrer, Author of How We Decide
(Photo © Nina Subin, 2008)
--This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
From Publishers Weekly
“As Lehrer describes in fluid prose, the brain’s reasoning centers are easily fooled, often making judgments based on nonrational factors like presentation (a sales pitch or packaging)...Lehrer is a delight to read, and this is a fascinating book (some of which appeared recently, in a slightly different form, in the New Yorker) that will help everyone better understand themselves and their decision making.” —Publisher's Weekly, starred review --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Sometimes we need to think through the options we have and sometimes we need to listen to our emotions. The secret is to know when to use these different styles of thought. Reason and feelings have important strengths and weakness. Different situations require different strategies. How we decide should depend on what we are deciding.
Our reasoning is like the charioteer and our emotions are the horses. People have disparaged the emotional brain, blaming our feelings for our mistakes. Emotions are crucial part of decision making. A brain that can't feel can't make up its mind.
Since Plato we have been assured that a perfectly rational world would be perfect world. This is not true. The reality of the brain is that, sometimes, rationality can lead us astray. Choking is one of the example of the havoc that can be caused by too much thought. It's an illustration of rationality gone awry.
One of the problem with feeling is that even when they are accurate, they can still be hard to articulate. Instead of going with the option that feels the best, a person starts going with the option that sounds the best, even if it's a bad idea. When we overthink at the wrong moment, we cut ourselves from the wisdom of our emotions.
The worst decisions happen when the emotions are silent or overwhelming. In order to make the right decisions, the mind needs emotional input. The emotional input needs to exists in dialogue with the rational analysis.
People in good mood are significantly better at solving hard problems that require insight than people who are cranky. This is because the brain areas associate with the executive control are preoccupied with managing the emotional life and it's hard for the executive control to focus on the problem.
The reason our emotions are intelligent is that they've managed to turn mistakes into educational events. We are constantly benefitting from our experience, even though we are not conciosulsy aware of the benefits. Becoming an expert takes time and practice. Once we've developed expertise with requisite mistakes,it's important to trust our emotions when making decisions in that domain. It's feelings that capture the wisdom of experience.
---The Good Points---
* Lehrer does an excellent job of summarizing what is known about the brain's process for making decisions. He takes the reader through many examples of what happens on a chemical/electrical/biological basis inside the brain when it is going through a specific thought process. I found this material fascinating.
* There is also a good amount of material presented on how the brain makes decisions, and how this decision process can be enhanced or corrupted based on outside factors-how busy the brain is, the external environment, preconceived notions. In one experiment that I found fascinating, people were asked to remember either a 2 or 7 digit number. Those tasked with the two digit number were far less likely to be tempted by an offer of chocolate cake. Explained very much about my diet...
* Lehrer also takes the reader through numerous real world examples of decisions made in real time, and under stressful circumstances. Airline pilots seem to be a favorite area or research, and some of the stories and analysis were fascinating.
* The book is easy to read, light on technical and medical jargon, and presented more as mass-market non-fiction than any sort of research or scholarly work. I found it to have just the right level of technical detail, but I am pretty much a novice as brain surgery.
---The Not-So-Good Points---
* There is nothing new in the book, at least that I could discern. Mostly it is a rehash of existing work, albeit with some explanatory verbiage wrapped around it. Anyone who has read other books in this general area would probably be disappointed.
* It ended too soon. For each of the chapters, I always wanted to read more material about the subject and explanations of the results observed.
An excellent book if you haven't read much material in this area.