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How We Decide
Jonah Lehrer
read on October 1, 2009

This book is about how humans make decisions, and more importantly, how we can make better ones. I had expected the book to be pretty light-lifting, but it was much more technical than I anticipated. The book covers a lot of high level neuroscience, describing the parts of our brains that are used for several different kinds of thought. Primarily, the author calls out rational logic and emotional reactions as the two primary ways we make decision.

Rational thought is controlled by the prefrontal cortex, the frontal lobe of the brain that is far more developed in humans than any other species. This is where we make calculations and do cost benefit analysis, and solve problems and even invent creative solutions. I don't need to describe the benefits of this. But it's also where we deliberate and over analyze. Furthermore, it has a surprisingly limited number of data points that it can consider at once, which can trick you into thinking you're considering everything, when really you aren't.

The emotional centers of the brain do the opposite. They're equipped with chemical reward centers that have been trained over your lifetime to instantly analyze the situation based on your past experience, long before your rational mind can do the calculations.

The book explains the balance between rational thought and emotional "autopilot" thought- and most importantly urges the reader to recognize what situations are most appropriate for each process. The purpose of the book is to enable the reader to make better decisions. By realizing the type of situation you are in and then from there engaging the most appropriate decision making neurological process.

Author Bio:

Jonah Lehrer (born Jonah Richard, June 25, 1981) is an American author. He was a widely sought-after writer and speaker prior to having major published works recalled for irregularities in their intellectual content. Lehrer received Columbia University neuroscience training and graduated with humanities coursework. He was a Rhodes Scholar, and attended Wolfson College, Oxford. Thereafter, he built a rapidly successful book, magazine, and new media career that integrated science and humanities content to address broad aspects of human behaviour. Having been contracted to write for The New Yorker and (until 2013), Lehrer was discovered to have routinely recycled his earlier work, plagiarised press releases, and misused quotes and facts. His third book, Imagine: How Creativity Works (2012), was the starting point of scrutiny, when quotes attributed to Bob Dylan were discovered to be fabrications. His earlier book, How We Decide (2009) was recalled after a publisher's internal review found significant problems in that material as well. In 2016, Lehrer published A Book About Love.