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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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,447 ratings  ·  162 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.
May 25, 2014 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 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
Dave Burns
Mar 09, 2012 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
Victoria Costello
Dec 26, 2011 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
Jul 26, 2013 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
Jan 22, 2012 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 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
David Rush
May 28, 2012 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 effect

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.
B.J. Richardson
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
I probably shouldn't have read this book at roughly the same time as I read Thinking Fast and Slow. I think that tainted my perceptions of this book too harshly.

Best case scenario, this book is TFaS lite. At least the first third of the book tracks almost exactly with key segments of that one. The difference is, Daniel Kahneman in TFaS loads his concepts with science and studies as well as peppering his ideas with practical anecdotes and illustrations. DiSalvo takes those same anecdotes and ill
Mar 06, 2012 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 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
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
So interesting. Our brains want to be right at all costs. Opens up even more questions while reading this at the same time as 'You are a Bad Ass'. Our minds are stubborn childish and competitive little things. ...more
Jun 15, 2012 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. ...more
AnnARegina Enyedi
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
DiSalvo's book is a very good theoretical, scientific and also practical work (the author mentions theories and other researchers' outcomes as well as several scientific experiments and useful tips in everyday life). Here are my favorite highlights from the book, some useful and interesting thoughts, what made me think:

* motivation with competitional "skills" are not always effective: sometimes the more you are/feel compared with somebody, the less you are motivated
* build motivation around your
Matthew Green
Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
It's good information, but the organization is fairly incoherent. This is mostly due to the content, which isn't really aimed at a single argument. Instead, it's just a collection of facts that the author did his best to categorize. The problem is that there isn't a progression of any sort, which made it difficult to stick with. The one thing he did have control over was how he handled practical matters, which I think he choose wrongly on. He added a final chapter to provide some practical advic ...more
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First and last chapter read. Fav bits: science- not self-help - using sound research instead of pop psychology to help make better choices. “What differentiates scientific assertions from the droves of poorly grounded self-help and pseudoscience is [the process of scientific investigation.] It... is, in a sense, bent on self destruction. It doesn’t trumpet the perfection of its outcomes; it calls out for challenges...” (p24). Also, be gentle with your brain. Help it with good habits, beneficial ...more
Laurence Freeman
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
If you've never read any book on cognitive behavioural science, this is the book for you... ...more
May 12, 2012 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
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
A presentation of some of the ways in which the human brain deceives us to believe things that are not totally right.

It's a short book and it does have some nice information that maybe you do not know.

It's terribly boring and the writing is clumsy. Please do not misunderstand me; I am a geek and I love to learn about the brain. That's why I thought the book would be wonderful, but I was very disappointed as I advanced through it. Moreover, pretty much all of the book is based on psyc
Jun 03, 2018 added it
I'll give it a second read.
Gives perspective and stimulates critical awareness about how some craving of certainty pleasure can make a human reason myopically or impairs his immunity to manipulation.

However, my problem with such books is that, although they explain important matters that drastically impact our choices, whether statistically or qualitatively founded, they take it a bit further from absoluteness of some 'scientific' affirmations to making humans mere chemicals and neurons with ele
Richard Foster
Feb 11, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
This book is so poorly written that it turned one of my favourite things to read about into a chore - I gave up after 150 pages.

The pattern of each chapter:

1. Author tells half a story to introduce the next topic and then says, 'But more on that later.'
2. List of about 5 different experiments that are slightly related.
3. Return to initial story for 2 sentences.
4. 'The next chapter will explore this further...'

It's tedious.
Eduardo Santiago
Jul 22, 2012 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.
Zahra Khan
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Didn't finish. Read about half and couldn't get into it. Superficial in many ways and kind of self-helpy despite trying to distance itself from that genre. The focus isn't on science so much as deriving insights for self-improvement. Not convinced adequate data is used to derive said insights. Was hoping for more hard science. ...more
Apr 02, 2012 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. ...more
Constance Lucier
Jan 22, 2013 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!
Wendy Palmer
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ebook, 2012
Maybe had raised expectations due to glowing reviews on Amazon, but I felt it lacked detail and I've enjoyed similar books more. ...more
Nov 24, 2012 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. ...more
Angela Clayton
Jun 10, 2013 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.
Dec 13, 2013 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.
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