I read Lehrer's "How We Decide" as the latest installment in my recent fascination with written research on the human brain. Lehrer performs a meta-anI read Lehrer's "How We Decide" as the latest installment in my recent fascination with written research on the human brain. Lehrer performs a meta-analysis of several studies performed on human cognition and attempts to shed light on how exactly we as a species leverage different regions of the brain to make decisions. Lehrer describes the human cognitive system as a decision-making spectrum where one end represents decisions we make instinctually, while the other end represents decisions we rationalize.
Instinctual decisions are made by a more primitve region of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This region of the brain deals with our emotions and is also closely tied to our dopamine-releasing self-reward system. We often associate decisions made by the ACC as "coming from the gut."
In conctrast, rationalized decisions come from the prefrontal cortex, a much more recent evolutionary development of the human brain. Making rational decisions requires the brain to process and analyze a set of sensory input data and determine a reaction. While this is the slower means of making a decision, it allows us to make very complicated, educated choices and it distinguishes us from our mammalian cousins.
When we practice solving problems through repetitive training, we push the decision-making from the prefrontal cortex to the ACC. This is the act of creating habits and helps explain why a pilot can process a huge amount of complex data and take just the right steps to save a doomed airplane full of passengers through a series of "gut" decisions.
Overusing the ACC leads to emotionally-driven, compulsory decisions. Overusing the prefrontal cortex leads to decision paralysis. Lehrer suggests that simply being aware of how we think -- whether we're relying on the ACC or the prefrontal cortex -- can lead us to make better decisions.
"How We Decide" was scientific and technical without being dry or inaccessible by a reader with limited nerological knowledge such as me. Reading the book has undoubtedly changed the way I think about thinking, and I firmly believe I can improve many of my own bad decision-making habits (particularly my issue with indecision) with this added perspective. Interested in the human min? Read this....more
The Power of Habit provides a glimpse into human tendency for repetitive, predictable behavior. Through dozens of fascinating stories ranging from indThe Power of Habit provides a glimpse into human tendency for repetitive, predictable behavior. Through dozens of fascinating stories ranging from individual gambling addiction to corporate schemes that lure customers, Duhigg draws parallels between each case and posits that the "habit cycle" is comprised of three primary steps: cues, routines and rewards.
I opened this book hoping to learn how to achieve total control over my own habits -- how to eliminate bad ones and cultivate good ones -- and while I didn't find enlightenment, I came away with a clearer sense of self-awareness. I can now identify the habits that permeate my day-to-day life and define my being. Perhaps with very careful attention to detail I can, as Duhigg suggests, identify the cues that trigger my worst habits and shift the routine, ultimately leading to a different reward.
I would recommend the Power of Habit to anyone who possesses a simple curiosity around the human psychology and how it works. The book won't revolutionize one's beliefs, but it will shed some new light on a subject many of us have habitually taken for granted....more