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What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
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What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  2,238 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
This book reveals a remarkable paradox: what your brain wants is frequently not what your brain needs. In fact, much of what makes our brains "happy" leads to errors, biases, and distortions, which make getting out of our own way extremely difficult.

Author David DiSalvo presents evidence from evolutionary and social psychology, cognitive science, neurology, and even marke
Paperback, 309 pages
Published November 22nd 2011 by Prometheus Books (first published 2011)
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Emma Sea
Books like this make me wish I could afford to hire a research assistant to read and summarize as a one-page document. Yes, the content is very useful, but DiSalvo spins out what would be an interesting article into a full-length book.
Jan 22, 2012 Robin rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating book about the brain (and its neurons) and how it affects our personalities and our thinking. It tells us useful so many uselful things that I can't explain them all. Here are a couple.

In a political discussion, the one side will maintain adamantly their opinion is the correct one, yet the other side will maintain just as vigorously that their side is correct. The conversation can get quite heated. Why is this so? Sometimes the conversation can get so heated that neither
Victoria Costello
Dec 26, 2011 Victoria Costello rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone curious about how the mind workds
Shelves: nonfiction
With one eye on neuroscience and the other on cognitive psychology, DiSalvo reveals what's "behind the curtain" when it comes to common self-defeating human behaviors. For example, why, if you think you've "blown your diet" by exceeding the calorie limit you set for the day, most likely you'll blow through it all the way, thinking "oh what the hell." It turns out what the hell is a pre-wired response. As is overconfidence about your ability to restrain yourself in the first place, thus the reaso ...more
Dave Burns
Mar 09, 2012 Dave Burns rated it it was ok
Shelves: skimmed
I had high hopes for this book because the author framed it as "science-help" as opposed to self help. So I was hoping for some specific techniques to help me avoid the cognitive biases he describes. Most of the books is a quite standard description of cognitive biases, and not so bad if you haven't been introduced to them yet.
Chapter 15 was as close as he got to fulfilling his promise. It consists of 50 suggestions or aphorisms, each paired with a paragraph of discussion. But they are almost al
May 25, 2014 Sophia rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
This is a long review, so I divided it into two parts: essential information at the beginning, and auxiliary information afterwards.

-easy to read
-interesting topics.
-some chapters are ok. A few misrepresentations of data, but at least ample reference to studies and professional opinions.

-like any good lie, it's a mix of truth and lies, with insufficient evidence. This makes it a very misleading book.
-He makes wild claims that do not correspond to actual consolidated knowledge, without
Jan 22, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it
An eye opening read that will have you nodding your head in agreement in every page, thinking, yes, I do that - but this book helps us to understand why we won't admit when we're wrong, or why we see patterns in random events. I enjoyed this book but when I lent it to a friend who didn't have a science background, she told me she had to look up too many words. Di Salvo does have quite an extensive vocabulary but, as someone with an interest in popular science, I found the book approachable and r ...more
Pat Herndon
Sep 20, 2013 Pat Herndon rated it really liked it
I listened to the audiobook, which seems to have been "born audio". I was expecting a mass audience, management/personal development book, the kind produced for businessmen to listen to as they commute. I was pleasantly surprised to find this book to be more in-depth. It covered the work of many behavioral economists, whose work is often cited by authors like Dan Ariely and similar authors. However, this book added just a bit more and talked about some scientific observations of human decision m ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Lena rated it really liked it
This book is an addition to the collection of how to hack the aspects of our brains that tend to get us into trouble. DiSalvo is a science writer who has written an accessible "science help" book that should be quite useful to just about anyone.

Among the topics discussed are the brain's craving for certainty and how it can trick us into feeling certain even when we have no reason to; how our tendency to discount the future can cause bad decisions now, how poor we are at judging when someone is l
David Rush
May 28, 2012 David Rush rated it liked it
Cool words and phrases I got from this book

problematic memes
the pleasure of certainty
framing bias
confirmation bias
the need for cognitive closure
embodied cognition
the zeigarnik effort

I just need to go through my bookmarks and dog ears to remind myself what they mean.

A nice book that basically says in our human desire for certainty we will bend, change, morph our thinking to avoid being uncomfortable or acknowledge ambiguity or uncertainty.
Mar 06, 2012 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
Skimmed through the last parts of this book because it was due back at the library, but this book deserves a second read. Excellent insights into ways we think and act that often undermine our best interests. Reduces much of the latest research in neuroscience to manageable reading.
May 15, 2012 Sammie rated it really liked it
A fascinating round up of research that shows how our brain can trick us into self-defeating behaviour. What I like about this book is that it isn't trying to claim it holds the key to a better life. Instead it teaches you to become aware of the mechanisms your brain may use to make decisions and drive behaviour, and when those mechanisms may act against your best interests. He argues that just being aware of those things is the beginning of overcoming them and making better decisions, while at ...more
May 12, 2012 Kaitlin rated it really liked it
There's a lot of good information it in here. Some of it I'd seen before in other similar books regarding psychology and sociology, but many things were new to me.

What makes this different from other books in its genre is that this touches on what changes we can make to improve ourselves, based on the way our minds work. This isn't a self-help book, but it may make you question your perspective on the world and your place in it.

This is neither a weight loss (or other self-help) how-to, nor a cog
Jun 15, 2012 Patrick rated it liked it
Shelves: science, psychology
This seemed like it would be good at the start, but it ended up being a sequence of theory / list of studies, theory/list of studies which I didn't feel was done in a satisfying way. I much preferred "The Power of Habit" which didn't come across so much as a collection of study summaries with some text by the author to link them together.
Eduardo Santiago
Jul 22, 2012 Eduardo Santiago rated it really liked it
Possibly a good introduction to cognitive biases for the uninitiated. A little more self-helpy than I was expecting, but self-awaredly so; and now that I write that, I think this might actually be a good introductory book for a teen or promising-but-not-yet-fossilized young adult. It seems like the kind of nudge that could lead to better self-knowledge.
Apr 02, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it
very good information on how our brains trick us and how to be aware of it. this guy believes in science-based advice, not self-help so it's stuff you can actually use. the reading list and blogs at the end were excellent.
Constance Lucier
Jan 22, 2013 Constance Lucier is currently reading it
So far...enjoying this book!
I read "self help" type books differently today>> new research offers insight into the most mysterious organ in our body, the brain. And in that endeavor, it's fascinating! The reader can explore answers that were not previously considered!
Nov 24, 2012 Seth rated it liked it
I wanted to like it more, but it was just a little too random. I would stick with "Thinking, Fast and Slow" and "Stumbling on Happiness" instead.
Wendy Palmer
Mar 30, 2012 Wendy Palmer rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook, non-fiction, 2012
Maybe had raised expectations due to glowing reviews on Amazon, but I felt it lacked detail and I've enjoyed similar books more.
Jun 10, 2013 Hawkgrrrl rated it really liked it
Really good read about why we make poor choices and how to avoid those mistakes. Best of all are the bibliography and additional case studies at the end. Well worth a read.
Nivash Kumar
Dec 13, 2013 Nivash Kumar rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This book presents research done in neurosciences in a cogent and compelling manner. It is about irrationality, cognitive biases and memory biases.
Dave Johnson
Feb 03, 2017 Dave Johnson rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-loan
I liked it. It summarized the logical fallacies and personal biases we all fall into at one time or another. Might be a little basic for psych students, but it was a good read for someone at my level, who has limited, outdated knowledge but who wants a better understanding.
Maria Rita
Dec 19, 2013 Maria Rita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, reread
Lo consiglierei a coloro che hanno sperimentato di non riuscire a distinguere chi mente da chi è sincero e per questo si sono sentiti magari degli sciocchi. Con questo libro scoprirebbero infatti che non sono stupidi per nulla, ma assolutamente nella norma poiché il cervello non sembra capace di distinguere fra chi dice la verità e chi no. Il libro è scritto in modo da essere veramente comprensibile ai più. Solo, non mi convince il fatto che la sola consapevolezza di come funzioni il cervello, p ...more
Oct 13, 2013 Paola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Divulgativo certo, ma ha i suoi pregi. Un linguaggio semplice, scorrevole, molti exempla.
A me oltretutto ha permesso di risolvere un problema relativo ad un cuscino che mi causava dolori alle cervicali. Ma siccome era un cuscino "curativo", creato apposta per tale problema, non poteva mica causarmi dolori ed emicranie etc. etc. no?? E invece.
Ecco pensiamo troppo spesso di essere intelligenti e invece all'idiozia non c'é mai fine (come diceva Einstein) e ci causiamo pure danni continuando ad ali
Janna Patterson
Aug 24, 2016 Janna Patterson rated it really liked it
"I'm standing near the deli counter at the supermarket. Close to me are five or six other people, and we are all eyeing the same quarry—rotisserie chickens turning on a spit in the monster-sized oven against the far wall. The timer on the oven tells us that there are just over three minutes left before the chickens are ready. More people gather. I inch closer to the counter. The others do the same. I can feel a tension thickening in the atmosphere; my nerves are starting to peak, my heart is bea ...more
Aug 08, 2015 Ulrich rated it liked it
Part of me kind of hates this book, but I think that is because it is too similar to what I would write if I tried to write a book on this topic. So... Factual. There's no romance or mystery. No imagination. So many writers let themselves get carried away, even when writing non-fiction. They take so many liberties in order to present a compelling narrative to the layperson.

This book is actually what it purports to be. It contains actual facts, descriptions of scientific experiments including me
Kirsten Zirngibl
Jun 19, 2014 Kirsten Zirngibl rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was OK. It focuses on backing up common human fallacies with research. There seem to be a lot of studies and articles on cognitive bias, lately. One of the anthems of pop sci appears to be “you can’t trust your own brain!”

I wouldn’t say this was specifically a “self help” book (it even labels itself as “science help”), but I’m guessing that most readers picked it up for this reason. That’s one of the reasons why I read it. I was looking to understand exactly why I could get stuck in s
Nov 16, 2016 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mind
I liked it, but the narration was awful. This book is written at the level of a NYT article, so while the author condemns self-help and describes his book as science-help, YMMV.

The conclusion does a good job of summarizing the entire book, and it might be useful to start there and see if you want to check out the rest of the book. A couple of chapters just turned into white noise where I wasn't paying attention to them.

There were some useful tips, like the way to deal with a hunger craving is t
Nate Crow
Sep 17, 2016 Nate Crow rated it really liked it
Interesting material and well referenced with lots of studies. A little dense and much to think about. I will have to read this again another time.

Basically, our unconscious mind runs most of our automatic processes; when given a choice, it prefers to be comfortable; for many things that works fine.

Unfortunately, since stress, conflict and even discovery interfere with that comfort, when left to its own devices the unconscious mind will find the simplest, most comfortable solutions to complex s
Kathy Coenen
I loved this book. I am fascinated by what makes us tick apart from acculturation. There are study summaries that are entertaining that will enlighten you and if you can retain a few of them you can in some cases be aware of when you are responding to marketing ploys and can at least be fairly armed. This awareness will make you slow down and consider why you and others do some of the things you do and possibly motivate you to make incremental changes. Alternately, appreciating how we operate ca ...more
Oct 11, 2015 Sara rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
I got this book based on reviews, under the impression it's "different", but the content is the same as any "cognitive psychology" book, and I have a problem with those. Cherry-picking research that are not really that representative anyway whether because of the sample or even the percentages of "supporting results" (that is, when the author informed us of such numbers) is not really my cup of tea. I don't like how the book tries to simplify something as complex as the human brain and social/cu ...more
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“Loneliness, Cacioppo points out, has nothing to do with how many people are physically around us, but has everything to do with our failure to get what we need from our relationships.” 3 likes
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