How we decide by jonah lehrer art or science...


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How we decide by jonah lehrer art or science...

  1. 1. How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer Learning About OurselvesProduct Description The first book to use the unexpected discoveries ofneuroscience to help us make the best decisions.Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process aseither rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we blink and go withour gut. But as scientists break open the minds black box with the latesttools of neuroscience, they re discovering that this is not how the mindworks. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling andreason and the pr ecise mix depends on the situation. When buying ahouse, for example, its best to let our unconscious mull over the manyvariables. But when were picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray.The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and todo this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edgeresearch as well as the real-world experiences of a wide range of decidersfrom airplane pilots and hedge fund investors to serial killers and pokerplayers. Lehrer shows how people are taking advantage of the newscience to make better television shows, win more football games, andimprove military intelligence. His goal is to answer two questions tha t areof interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does thehuman mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisionsbetter? A Q&A with Jonah Lehrer, Author of How We Decide Q:Why did you want to write a book about decision-making? A: It all beganwith Cheerios. Im an incredibly indecisive person. There I was, aimlesslywandering the cereal aisle of the supermarket, trying to choose betweenthe apple-cinnamon and honey-nut varieties. It was an embarrassingwaste of time and yet it happened to me all the time. Eventually, I decidedthat enough was enough: I needed to understand what was happening
  2. 2. inside my brain as I contemplated my breakfast options. I soon realized, ofcourse, that this new science of decision making had implications fargrander than Cheerios. Q: What are some of those implications? A:Life is ultimately just a series of decisions, from the mundane (what shouldI eat for breakfast?) to the profound (what should I do with my life?). Untilrecently, though, we had no idea how our brain actually made thesedecisions. As a result, we relied on untested assumptions, such as theassumption that people were rational creatures. (This assumption goes allthe way back to Plato and the ancient Greeks.) But now, for the first timein human history, we can look inside our mind and see how we actuallythink. It turns out that we werent designed to be rational or logical or evenparticularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network ofdifferent areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion.Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by itsinexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained,these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment. Of course, byunderstanding how the human mind makes decisions--and by learningabout the decision-making mistakes that were all vulnerable to--we canlearn to make better decisions. Q: Can neuroscience really teach us howto make better decisions? A: My answer is a qualified yes. Despite theclaims of many self-help books, there is no secret recipe for decision-making, no single strategy that can work in every situation. The real worldis just too complex. The thought process that excels in the supermarketwont pass muster in the Oval Office. Therefore natural selection endowedus with a brain that is enthusiastically pluralist. Sometimes we need toreason through our options and carefully analyze the possibilities. Andsometimes we need to listen to our emotions and gut instinct. The secret,of course, is knowing when to use different styles of thought--when to trustfeelings and when to exercise reason. In my book, I devoted a chapter tolooking at the world through the prism of the game of poker and found that,in poker as in life, two broad categories of decisions exist: math problemsand mysteries. The first step to making the right decision, then, isaccurately diagnosing the problem and figuring out which brain system torely on. Should we trust our intuition or calculate the probabilities? Wealways need to be thinking about how we think. Q: Are you a good pokerplayer? A: When I was in Vegas, hanging out with some of best pokerplayers in the world, I convinced myself that Id absorbed the tricks of thetrade, that I could use their advice to win some money. So I went to a low-stakes table at the Rio, put $300 on the line, and waited for the chips toaccumulate. Instead, I lost all my money in less than an hour. It wa s anexpensive but valuable lesson: theres a big difference betweenunderstanding how experts think and being able to think like an expert.Q: Why write this book now? A: Neuroscience can seem abstract, ascience preoccupied with questions about the cellular details of perceptionand the memory of fruit flies. In recent years, however, the field has beeninvaded by some practical thinkers. These scientists want to use the niftyexperimental tools of modern neuroscience to explore some of themysteries of everyday life. How should we choose a cereal? What areas ofthe brain are triggered in the shopping mall? Why do smart people
  3. 3. accumulate credit card debt and take out subprime mortgages? How canyou use the brain to explain financial bubbles? For the first time, theseincredibly relevant questions have rigorously scientific answers. It all goesback to that classical Greek aphorism: Know thyself. Id argue that thediscoveries of modern neuroscience allow us to know ourselves (and ourdecisions!) in an entirely new way. Q: How We Decide draws from thelatest research in neuroscience yet also analyzes some crucial moments inthe lives of a variety of deciders, from the football star Tom Brady to asoap opera director. Why did you take this approach? A: Herbert Simon,the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, famously compared our mind to apair of scissors. One blade, he said, represented the brain. The otherblade was the specific environment in which our brain was operating. If youwant to understand the function of scissors, Simon said, then you have tolook at both blades simultaneously. What I wanted to do in How WeDecide was venture out of the lab and into the real world so that I couldsee the scissors at work. I discuss some ingenious experiments in thisbook, but lets face it: the science lab is a startlingly artificial place. And so,wherever possible, I tried to explore these scientific theories in the contextof everyday life. Instead of just writing about hyperbolic discounting andthe feebleness of the prefrontal cortex, I spent time with a debt counselorin the Bronx. When I became interested in the anatomy of insight (wheredo our good ideas come from?) I interviewed a pilot whose epiphany in thecockpit saved hundreds of lives. Thats when you really begin to appreciatethe power of this new science--when you can use its ideas to explain allsorts of important phenomena, such as the risky behavior of teenagers, theamorality of psychopaths, and the tendency of some athletes to chokeunder pressure. Q: What do you do in the cereal aisle now? A: I wasabout halfway through writing the book when I got some great advice froma scientist. I was tellingFeatures:I really enjoyed this book. Its very easy to read -- I wouldnt hesitate to giveit to an eighth-grader with a strong interest in biology and the human mind.The author uses three devices repeatedly to make the book interesting.First, he often recounts some actual event -- e.g. a plane in distress or aperson about to be consumed by a forest fire -- in which a person made animportant decision correctly (or sometimes incorrectly). Second, he tellsabout experiments of psychological research performed to unravel themystery of how the brain operates, and what they mean. Third, h e talksabout people whose brains have some impairment, and how that affectstheir decision-making. I found them all quite interesting. The author writesclearly and engagingly.There were a couple of points where I didnt quite see how the author cameto the particular conclusion he espoused, but lets not quibble -- this is aGOOD READ. For those looking for more info about what the bookactually talks about, here are some of the concepts: dopamine, theorbitofrontal cortex, loss aversion, stereotype threat, anchoring effect,
  4. 4. mirror neurons, autism, the FFA (face-recognition area of the brain), andmuch more. All of these are presented in a non-technical way that holdsyour interest. He wraps up the book by talking about how we can use ourunderstanding of how the brain makes decisions to make better decisions.A very interesting book! For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price: How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer - 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!