How We Decide Hardcover – Feb 9 2009
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"Over the past two decades, research in neuroscience and behavioral economics has revolutionized our understanding of human decision making. Jonah Lehrer brings it all together in this insightful and enjoyable book, giving readers the information they need to make the smartest decisions.”—Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes’ Error and Looking for Spinoza
“Jonah Lehrer ingeniously weaves neuroscience, sports, war, psychology, and politics into a fascinating tale of human decision making. In the process, he makes us much wiser.”—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational
“Should we go with instinct or analysis? The answer, Lehrer explains, in this smart and delightfully readable book, is that it depends on the situation. Knowing which method works best in which case is not just useful but fascinating. Lehrer proves once again that he’s a master storyteller and one of the best guides to the practical lessons from new neuroscience.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail
“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
About the Author
Jonah Lehrer is a Contributing Editor at Wired and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. He writes the Head Case column for The Wall Street Journal and regularly appears on WNYC’s Radiolab. His writing has also appeared in Nature, The New York Times Magazine, Scientific American and Outside. He’s the author of two previous books, Proust Was A Neuroscientist and How We Decide. He graduated from Columbia University and attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
But "Blink" left me rather disappointed. It was a book that was about these real-world examples and not much else. It was a fun read, like Gladwell's other books, but it amounted to little more than trivia.
Lehrer's "How We Decide" not only delves into the neuroscience behind the subject matter, but most crucially it leaves its readers with conclusions that they can apply to their own lives - something that was sorely missing in Blink. The structure of the book is solid and deliberate, with the final chapters of the book putting all the pieces together.
Was it as fun to read as "Blink"? I imagine many people would say that it's not. But the insight Lehrer provides is vastly more valuable and resolves many of the frustrations I had with Gladwell's book. Anybody with a background in science, social science, or even math will probably feel the same way. Where Gladwell made reckless assumptions and created many shady links between cause and effect, Lehrer tends to keep the examples more relevant and the logic much more airtight.
If you read books solely for entertainment, you probably don't need to read this if you've already read "Blink." But if you have even the slightest interest in expanding your knowledge and applying this information to improve your decision-making, "How We Decide" is an infinitely better resource.
I mean it wholeheartedly when I say that this book is everything that Blink should have been.
After being blown away by his previous book, Proust Was A Neuroscientist, on the relationship between brain science and art, I snapped up Lehrer's next one. Its purpose is to demonstrate the relationship between brain science and the way we make decisions in our everyday world.
It points out early that the old dichotomy that we all know and our western tradition has believed for the past three millennia is in fact false. That tradition is that the brain is divided between reason and emotion and that from Plato on forward we have been told we have to pay attention to reason because emotion leads us of the rails and has to be cajoled and bullied back into place by reason.
Wrongo. The brain is a prediction machine and conscious and unconscious factors lead people to made decisions, sometimes favouring the speed and experience of intuition and on other occasions mulling over the facts.
In this context, Lehrer uses compelling real life situations to make his points. How Tom Brady passed into the 'future' to win the Superbowl; how the radar tech felt a returning jet blip was wrong and ordered it downed, less than a half mile from a battle ship he was not on - it was a missile; how the mind is averse to loss and that we invest money in the stock market for bad reasons; that superstar basketball players do not get on streaks of success; and so on.
Early on, Lehrer points out that a brain injury patient who has the connection between the subconscious and conscious centre (behind the right eyebrow) severed cannot make decisions because without emotional preferences consciousness has no way of determining which action to take.Read more ›
Lehrer points out that for a long time, humans have made a distinction between the rational brain and the more "primitive" emotion-driven brain (for example, in the book Switch, which we reviewed earlier, the authors build on this idea, using Jonathan Haidt's metaphor of the Rider and the Elephant to represent reason and emotion.) Lehrer refers to the work of Plato, Descartes and Freud to show how decision-making has long been thought to be the job of the rational brain. Many authors have challenged this notion -- Malcolm Gladwell in Blink springs to mind -- and Lehrer provides the scientific reasons behind the theory.
Lehrer shows how the rational brain is easily overloaded and is best used to make decisions when the problem is simple, there are few data points, and the outcome is not terribly important. In all other circumstances the emotional brain is a safer bet. However, for anyone tempted to disband current decision-making processes and just go with the gut, he shows why sometimes the "blink" response can let us down. He outlines common decision-making pitfalls (why people tend to make silly decisions in order to avoid a perceived loss, for example) and shows why experience is such an important component of making the optimal choice.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
We spend our whole life trying to figure out how our mind works. This book is an open door to understand the mechanic of it. Read morePublished on Jan. 26 2013 by Cognacazur
This book is well written and easy to understand. Complicated science of the activity of the brain and what affects our brain activity is presented in lay terminology and... Read morePublished on Feb. 5 2012 by Betty
Haven't finished reading it yet(3/4) but the situation used as examples for how the work do that it does are very interesting to say the least. Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2010 by Vincent Lachapelle
As others have noted, this book is quite good at explaining not only "how we decide," but more important, how we decide wisely or foolishly. Read morePublished on April 22 2010 by Michael W. Perry
This is an excellent, authoritative yet entertaining text on a complex and perhaps controversial topic. Read morePublished on Aug. 20 2009 by D. E. Huggins
This is very well written and referenced. This is a book about how parts of the brain affect decision-making. Different types of decisions may require different methods. Read morePublished on May 1 2009 by Karen M. Cooper
Don't just Blink! Instead, read a series of well-chosen, beautifully told stories of successful and unsuccessful decision practices, along with some rules of thumb for when to rely... Read morePublished on April 21 2009 by Donald Mitchell
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