Wendy Yu's Reviews > How We Decide

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
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Jul 19, 12

Read in July, 2012

The author focuses on the "emotion" versus "rationality" divide in decision-making, choosing anecdotes and studies that explore how people respond to situations either with their gut or through rationalizing. Some people panic and fail to use their heads (running from fire, piloting a plane), but others over-rationalize and make poor decisions compared to just going with their "good feelings" (stocks, choosing the best jam, choosing the best car when a lot of information is available). The first anecdote I thought was very interesting that described how a person who lost the emotional center in their brain in an accident stopped being able to make ANY decisions AT ALL: they would endlessly create pro/con lists, or calculate NPV, but could not actually pull the trigger -- they needed an emotional push.

The book is studies-driven, which I usually like, but fails to tie them together into a useful takeaway narrative. The last chapter tries to paint a framework, but is almost comically unhelpful ("In these situations, use your emotions to choose BUT NOT in these other subset of sitations, and vice versa"). So, in the end, the book is fun if you like to hear studies and anecdotes, but the lessons fail to stick.

Book dish: chocolate ice cream cone.
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