Thursday, July 9, 2009

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

This book is about how people make decisions. The book cites many scientific studies on decision making and brain science. Jonah Lehrer focuses on emotions and how they affect our decision making. He argues that emotions are the primary source of decision making. The ability to make the simple choice between yes and no is an emotional one.

We learn about the weaknesse in reason which lead to faulty thinking like spending too much with credit cards; why too much information can lead to bad decisions; and when it is best not to analyze and go with your feelings.

There are many examples of high pressure decisionmaking illustrated in this book; crashlanding an airplane, football quarterbacking, and surviving a forest fire are a few of them. A lot of these decisions are intuitive and analysis of the decisions are made afer they are done.

The book also describes decision making in poker and backgammon where there is both an element of feeling and a certain level of logic. Champion poker players know the odds but they also must be able to bluff and gage their opponents reactions.

I found the book useful. It reminded me that sometimes it is a good idea to let a decision wait a while and not think abut it consciously. I waited a couple days before writing this review.

This book challenges the idea of pure Cartesian logic. It argues that we are in a constant dialogue between our reason and our emotions. This is often not at a conscious level. Our emotions are the startng point. It describes a model of decision making centered in emotions and modern brain science. It also cites one of my favorite books, Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio.

Jonah Lehrer writes for the Mind Mattrs blog for Scientific American.


Anonymous said...

If you enjoy How We Decide, you will also enjoy "Think Again". This book helps you figure out when to trust you gut and when to design some process to protect you against your own mental errors.


Book Calendar said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I will take a look.