How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
Jonah Lehrer decided to write a book about decisionmaking because he couldn’t make a decision in the cereal aisle of the supermarket about what kind of Cheerios to buy. Realizing how much time he wasted on contemplating Cheerios and other mindless decisions, he decided to explore how the brain led him to certain conclusions.
“Ever since the time of the ancient Greeks, we’ve assumed
that humans are rational creatures,” says Lehrer. “When we
make a decision, we are supposed to consciously analyze the
alternatives and carefully weigh the pros and cons. There’s
only one problem with this assumption: it is wrong.”
Lehrer shows you how the brain works in the decisionmaking process. “It turns out that we weren’t engineered to be
rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our
mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which
are involved with the production of emotion,” says Lehrer.
He attests that whenever we make a decision, the brain
is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even
when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional
impulses secretly influence our judgment. Sometimes we must
reason through our options and carefully analyze the possibilities, sometimes we need to listen to our emotions and gut
instinct. According to Lehrer, the secret is knowing when to
trust feelings and when to exercise reason.
A Rhodes scholar who has worked in the lab of Nobel
Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, Lehrer offers a host
of real-world examples and tools to help readers differentiate
between the different types of decisions and looks to neuroscience to improve our decisionmaking capabilities. Key takeaways from the book include:
• See yourself as you really are and look inside the
black box of the human brain. Honestly assess your
flaws, talents, strengths, and shortcomings.
• When making decisions, actively resist the urge to
suppress the argument inside your head. Instead,
take time to listen to what all the different brain areas
have to say.
• Embrace uncertainty. Hard problems rarely have easy
solutions. There are two simple tricks to help ensure that
you never let certainty interfere with your judgment. First,
always entertain competing hypotheses. Second, continually remind yourself of what you don’t know.
• Think about thinking. Whenever you make a decision,
be aware of the kind of decisions you are making and the
kind of thought process it requires. It will help you steer
clear of stupid errors.
• The human brain can always improve itself.
Tomorrow, you can make better decisions. LE
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