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275 pages, Hardcover
First published December 29, 2011
After two months of the treatment, they showed improvements in attention and the ability to ignore distractions.
This added one hour a night to their quality sleep time, which in turn significantly reduced the risk of drug use relapse.
The chimpanzees expressed a preference (six M&Ms is better than two) and then acted on it. They maximized their gains with very little personal cost (a mere 120 seconds’ delay). The humans’ choices, on the other hand, were irrational. Before the challenge began, they clearly stated that they preferred six treats to two. But as soon as they had to wait two minutes to triple their snacks, their preferences reversed more than 80 percent of the time. They deprived themselves of what they really wanted for the fleeting satisfaction of a quick fix.
A 2010 national survey by the American Psychological Association found that 75 percent of people in the United States experience high levels of stress. It’s not surprising, given the events of the last decade, from terrorist attacks and flu epidemics to environmental disasters, natural disasters, unemployment, and near economic collapse.
Imagine this: It is 100,000 years ago, and you are a top-of-the-line homo sapiens of the most recently evolved variety. Yes, take a moment to get excited about your opposable thumbs, erect spine, and hyoid bone (which allows you to produce some kind of speech, though I’ll be damned if I know what it sounds like).
... think twice before saying “That loincloth makes you look fat.”
... cutting-edge stone tools.
... to care for you if you get sick or injured—no more hunting and gathering for you.
... minding your own early hominid business.
Evolution prefers to add on to what it’s created, rather than start from scratch.
... the following meditation technique will get the blood rushing to your prefrontal cortex—the closest we can get to speeding up evolution.
Willpower is a biological instinct, like stress, that evolved to help us protect ourselves from ourselves.
... we’ve seen that the human mind is not one unified self, but multiple selves who compete for control. There’s the self who wants immediate gratification and the self who remembers your bigger goals. There’s your present self, who may or may not seem to have much in common with your future self. As if that weren’t a crowded enough crew, it turns out that you have a few other people living in your head too.
Neuroeconomists—scientists who study what the brain does when we make decisions—have discovered that the self-control system and our survival instincts don’t always conflict. In some cases, they cooperate to help us make good decisions.