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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Similarity to other books is no crime. But one will be hard pressed to determine any differentiating value when the book is serving as another book referencing almost an identical set of research papers without providing a compelling counter-argument or new inferences. For a reader who is aware of the work in behavioral psychology, this book provides incremental value at best. For a reader getting initiated to this field, this book is an OK introduction to the vast research, though my no means a unique interpretation. It is written in a very accessible manner and the narration sustains the interest of the reader throughout the book. The reader may have been better served if the author provided a synopsis of each chapter in the context of his title "how we decide".
Overall, an interesting read if you are new to this field, but an also-ran if you are familiar with the popular literature in this field.
"Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has decided that disgraced journalist and author Jonah Lehrer's second book, How We Decide, will be taken off shelves at bookstores after the publisher's internal investigation uncovered "significant problems," The Daily Beast reports. Lehrer, who publicly apologized (in exchange for a substantial fee) last month for fabricating Bob Dylan quotes in his third book Imagine, resigned from The New Yorker in July. Imagine was pulled from shelves last year. The publisher didn't go into specifics about the problems with How We Decide, but Daily Beast's Michael Moynihan had previously flagged some "problematic passages.""
Sigh...I was looking forward to this read. Is originality dead?
The book is an easy read, interesting, and informative. It is, however, a lightweight read. Do not expect great depth into any of the studies -- it is more like a survey course or cliff notes in many respects. This makes it approachable for an audience without any science background, but it also left me wanting a lot more depth. I also found the concluding chapter to be forced... it didn't really have much to offer.
I am glad to have read the book, but I didn't walk away feeling amazed.
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.