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Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions Paperback – September 25, 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A fascinating introduction to an important new area of research in the science of the mind.
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University; "The Blank Slate"
CompellingMontague knows that cool reason is not enough to explain decisions.
Antonio Damasio, University of Southern California; author of "Descartes Error"
A gripping story of what makes me, me.
Patricia Churchland, MacArthur genius award winner
I consider Read to be quite exceptional.
Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate, co-discoverer of DNA

aA fascinating introduction to an important new area of research in the science of the mind.a
aSteven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University; "The Blank Slate"
aCompellinga]Montague knows that cool reason is not enough to explain decisions.a
aAntonio Damasio, University of Southern California; author of "Descartesa Error"
aA gripping story of what makes me, me.a
aPatricia Churchland, MacArthur ageniusa award winner
aI consider Read to be quite exceptional.a
aFrancis Crick, Nobel Laureate, co-discoverer of DNA

?A fascinating introduction to an important new area of research in the science of the mind.?
?Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University; "The Blank Slate"

?Compelling?Montague knows that cool reason is not enough to explain decisions.?
?Antonio Damasio, University of Southern California; author of "Descartes? Error"

?A gripping story of what makes me, me.?
?Patricia Churchland, MacArthur ?genius? award winner

?I consider Read to be quite exceptional.?
?Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate, co-discoverer of DNA

About the Author

Read Montague is a professor in the department of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, director of the Human Neuroimaging Lab, and director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288843
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Fowler on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
Introduction:
This book is a fascinating introduction to the mechanisms behind the choices we make. I highly recommend it to people who are looking for a basic understanding of the neuroscience of choice, as we understand it currently. All the information you need is included and discussed, and the book is filled with interesting stories and illustrations that make the author's train of thought easy to follow. My few complaints fall into two categories: writing and content. On the writing side, the transitions between topics inside a chapter can be choppy, which makes it difficult to connect everything together. Also, his writing style tends to be a bit wordy. On the content side, the book skims over a lot of information I would have liked to know, such as what is happening at the cellular level when we feel regret or trust. However, the book makes no claim to be an end-all resource and does have a large bibliography to allow further reading. Each of the book's eight chapters cover several topics, but they relate to each other well and Dr. Montague (the author) does a good job tying them all together. For the purposes of a summary, I have divided the book into three parts: background, elements of choice (models, valuation, goals, etc.), and the big picture. Also, while this book covers a wide range of topics, I wanted to cover just a couple of the ones I found especially interesting to give potential readers an idea of what the book is like.

Book Summary:
The background chapters, one and two, build a framework to hang the rest of the book on. They introduce ideas such the differences between the hardware and software of a computation device, and principles of efficient computing.
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This is one of my favorite books. Unfortunately, it was not mentioned anywhere that this is the same book as "Why Choose This Book" before I purchased it.

I guess this was not selling with the other name, or the title was badly chosen in terms of describing what the book was about.

I was hoping that this book was going to be a refinement and elaboration of his ideas in "Why Choose This Book" instead of the same book.
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Format: Paperback
Since the reviews are quite mixed I thought I might try to give you a good idea whether or not you are the kind of reader who would love the book or hate it. It's ironic that there is such a divergence of opinions about the book since it was originally entitled "Why Choose This Book?". I found it to be an excellent book but you might not. Let's see why.

Montague takes a more or less unified academic approach, trying to sketch out an overall theory of the brain as computational machine that assigns values and makes choices in an efficient manner. As a comparaison, it is an easier read and takes less of a textbook approach than Paul W. Glimcher's superb Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis. Those two books plus Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain, a book of readings edited by Glimcher, Camerer, Fehr, and Poldrack would be an excellent starter library for someone with a strong interest in neuroscience and decision making.

Montague's overarching idea is that a biological system such as the brain uses energy efficiently as a result of evolutionary processes. He uses the idea of the energy-efficient brain to connect a variety of different aspects of neuroscience for the reader. He covers in a fair amount of detail reinforcement learning, dopamine gating, reward-prediction error models of the dopamine system, and temporal-difference reinforcement learning models. I found his discussion of addiction in the context of the David Redish's temporal-difference reinforcement learning model to be very good.
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Format: Paperback
This is quite an unassuming book at first blush. With all the other books out there that deal with human decision-making, this one is by far the most advanced. There are lots of pop-psychology books in this genre (Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking or How We Decide) but believe me when I say that this is hands down the winner. Montague is a top-notch neuroscientist, which means that he delves into the "meat" of the decision-making process; the other guys just look at the consequences.

There are many things that Montague covers in this book - Turing's Computational Theory of Mind (CToM), Natural Selection/ Evolution, Reinforcement Learning, Neuroeconomics, Free Will and Philosophy of Mind - which to some reader's, may be overwhelming. However, in my view, it is well worth the effort to try and comprehend what Montague is proposing - a newer "Efficient Computational Theory of Mind (ECToM). His theory is a form of Physicalism, which simply means that what we regard as feelings and emotions are only physical states in the brain. And the brain is hardwired to find 'value' in these emotions; hence, it is possible for humans to disregard their instinct for survival in order to fulfill something that has a greater 'value' to that individual.
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