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What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite by David ...
on April 29, 2016
What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite by David DiSalvo is a book composed of several scenarios and stories to help the readers get an understanding of how the brain works. Most of the scenarios are easy to connect to for the reader and give an understanding to how the metaphorical wheels in the brain were turning when in specific situations.
Your brain seems to take the road that will lead to its happiness. That road consists of many patterns and things that seem familiar to the brain, and therefore seem “right” to the brain. However, as David DiSalvo argues, this road is maybe something you should avoid. When on this road, there are many things you can overlook because your brain is selecting the things to pay attention to, the patterns and familiarities the brain is accustomed to. Our brain likes to take shortcuts and it is very energy efficient, it doesn’t need to waste a lot of energy on routines, it is automatic.
One scenario from the book is titled “Blinded By The Bleeding Obvious”, in which DiSalvo explains that the brain has “selective attention” or “selective bias”. This means that even when you are conscious the brain seems to pay attention only to patterns it can relate to, or it feels comfortable with. In this short scenario Phil, who is a “smart guy”, has to make sure all the students from a deaf and blind school are accounted for during his nightly shifts. Most of the students seem to leave the lights on when going to bed, and that is what Phil sees as normal. When he comes to a dorm room with the lights off, he opens the door to see if the student is inside, but it appears to be too dark so he called out the student’s name from the rooster he was given. When there is no answer from the students, he begins to worry and looks in all the bathrooms, any remaining rooms, and hallways, with still no sign of the student. He goes to the Administration office to report a missing student and is asked if he “was certain” the student is missing, which he replies he is. A search party was initiated at the campus and at the city. Later on it occurred to Phil to go back to the room of the missing student, and when he was there he reached for the lights and turned them on. At that point he see’s the “missing” student on their bed with earphones in. There was a pattern the Phil’s brain registered, lights on means student is sleeping, which is good. When coming across a room with the lights off, the pattern was broken and triggered a different response in Phil’s brain, which in turn made him immediately act as if there was no other option except for the student being missing. He left the room without giving it another glance by turning the lights on, he was all so certain that the student was not in the room. He was “blinded by the bleeding obvious”.
Furthermore, in “ A Happy Brain’s Social Preferences” DiSalvo argues that the brain does not follow specific stereotypes. An experiment is brought up where the participants were given the option to choose between other people who share the same view or those who have an opposing view. The people tend to pick the person with the same views on a certain subject rather than a person with opposite views, rationalizing that the person with the same views also has the same values and therefore is trustworthy. The experiment is also done when the people have to choose between the person with the similar view, but they have a negative stereotype and the person with an opposite view but they have a positive stereotype. The result is that the people tend to pick the person with the similar views regardless of their stereotype. It's a Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc argument that the brain is trying to convey, and you usually don’t even question this reasoning. The brain again feels comfortable with this person because of the shared views and picks this person over the one with different views, even if this may not always be the right option. The brain manipulates you to pick the option it feels more comfortable with, again regardless of the other factors that may contribute to the decision-making.
“You Feeling Me?” is a scenario in which the reader is at a party and a fight seems to break out with two male partygoers. You move over to see what the whole scene is about and the party seems to stop. The rest of the time the attention is on the two males who are no longer in a vocal conflict but who are now engaged in a physical fight. The people at the party have already picked sides in regards to the two males and have made it a conflict between the people watching too. Soon the people fighting are told to take it outside and the whole party is moved there where it continues. However, now the fight between the people watching has escalated from cheering on their “side” to yelling at the other party people cheering for the other male or “side”. This is where the scenario ended and then it is explained that the watcher’s thoughts and actions have been “infected” by the thoughts and actions of the two males. Studies have shown that emotions are considered contagious, just like they were at the party scenario. Although, sometimes when emotions have influenced others’ emotions, it can prompt people to take certain actions, again like described in the scenario.
David DiSalvo has a good psychological understanding of how to make your brain “happy”, and he can show this understanding through the different scenarios he provides in order to explain this to the readers. The readers have a clear understanding of the argument David DiSalvo is portraying. His diction is informal and he feels comfortable writing about his own life through anecdotes he shares with the readers.
This book was overall a great read. It suggests a point of how the brain works in everyday life. DiSalvo brings to our attention points, which do not provide a simple answer. One of them may include the fact that we live with this astonishing organ in our skulls, which was conceived in the womb, and it learns the routines of our daily lives.