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Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,346 ratings  ·  155 reviews
The human brain may be the best piece of technology ever created, but it’s far from perfect. Drawing on colorful examples and surprising research, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano exposes the blind spots and weaknesses that beset our brains and lead us to make misguided personal, professional, and financial decisions. Whether explaining why we are susceptible to advertisement ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 6th 2012 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 1st 2011)
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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,346 ratings  ·  155 reviews

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Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I was the wrong audience for this book. It wasn't that it was terrible, but as one with a science background and a long interest in how the brain works, there wasn't any new information here. It didn't help that the book reads like a fake textbook in the same way that Jon Stewart is fake news. It's not that there isn't actual information there, but it's not a citable source. Some kind of narrative framework would have done this book a world of good. I like a great many non-fiction works, ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He immediately grabbed my attention with the first line, a quote from Thomas Edison.
It has been just so in all my inventions. The first step is an intuition—and comes with a burst, then difficulties arise. This thing that gives out and then that—“Bugs”as such little faults and difficulties are called show themselves and months of anxious watching, study and labor are requisite before commercial success—or failure—is certainly reached.
I'd always credited Grace Hopper for first using the word in t

travelling mp3, new car and an open road...

Description: A lively, surprising tour of our mental glitches and how they arise.

With its trillions of connections, the human brain is more beautiful and complex than anything we could ever build, but it's far from perfect. Our memory is unreliable; we can't multiply large sums in our heads; advertising manipulates our judgment; we tend to distrust people who are different from us; supernatural beliefs and superstitions are hard to shake; we prefer inst
Amir Tesla
This book depicts a decent picture of our brains associative architecture which has been developed through millions of years of evolution and natural selection.

The book explains numerous mechanisms of the brain that in the course of evolution were developed to protect and further help the survival of human beings but the very same mechanisms now are the source of many of our flaws in decision making and susceptibility to various exploits.

The downside to the book was first: As far as I'm concern
Bryna Kranzler
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We all know that our brains play tricks on us; if you have any doubt of this, just watch some Ted videos that give dramatic examples of this. But Dr. Buonomano’s excellent, lighthearted and very accessible book provides cogent examples of how and why our brains perform the tricks on us that they do, and how we often benefit. One of the first examples Buonomano cites is in his explanation of how “the brain edits and censors much of the the information it feeds the conscious mind [in] much the sam ...more
Brian Clegg
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are far too many popular science books around about emotions and pleasure and goodness knows what, so it might seem that the whole idea of writing about brain-related issues has got a bit tired... and then along comes Brain Bugs, which is an absolute delight to read and truly fascinating.

Dean Buonomano identifies the places where the brain gets it wrong, either because of technical problems - a classic example being optical illusions (there's one of the best optical illusions I've seen in
Ed Smiley
Dec 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable.

Many books on the brain spend a lot of time on brain physiology which gets really esoteric for the layperson, and many fundamentals get lost. However Dean Buonomano discusses basics for how our thinking is composed, associatively, of neural networks and synapses.

On the basis of Hebb's law (popularly described as "wired together fire together") and a few other considerations, such as that brain architecture is evolutionarily based, he is able to describe the foundations of a whole
John Martindale
In writing a review I often find it most difficult to be verbose concerning books that I agree with and thus most of my favorite books don't contain reviews. But when I differ with an author, boy, my fingers get to typing. Please forgive me as I pontificate.

I am quite put off by religious fundamentalist who assume they and their own alone have a perfectly objective grasp of Truth, and yet at the same time are utterly oblivious to their unsupported presuppositions, assumptions and circular reason
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting and full of useful information. If you ever wonder why people do stupid things, this helps explain the brain’s shortcomings.
Prof X
Jan 16, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Though many points in the book are interesting, the book suffers from several serious flaws.

First is Buonomano's insistence that everything humans do be explained exclusively in terms of stories about what must have, or at least might have, led our ancestors to live longer and thus be able to have more sex. The telling of such stories is, evidently, what "doing science" amounts to these days, in some disciplines.

The reduction of everything to the amount of sex our great, great, great, . . . grea
John Kaufmann
Really good read. Right up there with the best of the books on the brain/cognitive science/neuroscience/evolutionary psychology (of which there is a growing number): comparable to The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us and Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, though a little shy of the two best, Kahenman and Tversky's Thinking, F ...more
Steven Turek
The information in the book was interesting, but there were points that got a little too condescending for my taste. Apparently if you are in any way spiritual or religious, you are a primitive yokel who needs to look to science for answers rather than have faith. Apparently the draw to believe in something more powerful than yourself is a flaw in your brain that you need to overcome.

That being said, the majority of this book is good. The author is able to provide a myriad of research to back u
This was a very interesting and informative book. The author draws on (and provides detailed references to) a wide variety of research on how our brains work, and specifically, how they are wired. He points out specific ways that our brains have not caught up to the complex decisions that our modern society call for and why we often make poor long-term choices. I especially liked: Chapter 4 - Temporal Distortions and the section where he illuminates the Subjectivity of Time; Chapter 5 - Fear Fac ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A review of research organized to explain why our brains sometimes lead us astray or do not work efficiently. Buonomano uses mostly well known and accepted research covering such topics as how we make decisions, how information biases our thinking, ghost limbs after loss of limb, tinnitus, and many more. He treats each of these as bugs in wiring and, for some, also discusses the value of the bug to our ancestors. In some cases the bug works beautiful under some circumstances and gets in trouble
Sep 21, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cognition, nonfiction
Well, I’ll probably never get around to reading this one. I’ve read quite a few PopCog books, and don’t see any immediate evidence that this one will add anything fundamentally new. But it does seem like a good selection to point towards for someone new to the topic.

The author was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air on July 14, 2011. To check out highlights of the interview, listen online or download an MP3, click over to “Brain Bugs”: Cognitive Flaws That “Shape Our Lives” .
Hamideh Mohammadi
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
It was a good book, but it took me a while to finish it because some element was missing. Something that would make the argument more interesting, hence 4 stars.
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Initially, I like the writing style and what the author promises to deliver. Much better start than last book. It is a short book, but well-written and interesting.

Intro: Our brains' 'flaws' shape our lives. This book provides an examination of brain flaws from an evolutionary perspective. The brain is the most complex, known device in the universe. But it is imperfect -- it is limited and biased, especially in terms of memory, susceptibility to marketing. And now we, all creatures, really, live
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book written with humour and ample sarcasm towards humans in general.
Chapter 5 on natural fear responses was my personal favourite, especially in light of some of the 2016 political results such as Trump being elected and Brexit. I suspect this book may have been longer with even more hilarious and scary examples if it had been written after those results.
Chapter 8 was unexpected, describing religion as a brain bug may alienate some readers. Describing it as impeding acceptance of scient
Aaron Thibeault
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A full executive summary of this book is available here:

As much as we rely on our brains to navigate the complex world before us, anyone who has ever forgotten someone's name, or misread a situation, or made a poor decision in the heat of the moment knows that the brain does not always work as we would want. In his new book `Brain Bugs', neurobiologist Dean Buonomano explores the brain's many pitfalls and mistakes (and how and why it makes them), and also
I really enjoyed this book! Axons and dendrites and synapses, oh my!!
It's interesting to understand our cognitive processes and I think anyone who reads this book could learn something useful from it. From how to phrase questions so that you have a higher chance of getting the answer you want, to understanding the primitive and irrational nature of your fear of spiders.
I listened to it on tape [unabridged], so I'm not sure if actually reading the pages would have made this more dry.
It was defin
Another great addition to the repository of knowledge about the systematic failures of the human brain, alongside the works of Dan Ariely. It explores a wide variety of topics ranging from the inherent unreliability of human memory, the brain's idiosyncratic time measuring devices, the brain susceptibility to propaganda, etc.

Of course, as a misanthrope, this books makes me even less hopeful about the future of humanity, because I do not see any way for us to overcome the great challenges of our
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned some new things, particularly about how easily we are duped into believing irrational things. To wit, people intuitively think very hard about who would perform heart surgery on them, because it is assumed that this is life or death. Yet people do not spend much time or effort thinking about leaders who might have control of the nuclear arsenal. Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin as a heart surgeon would give more people pause than as country leader, yet one is personal and one is much more far ...more
Todd Martin
Oct 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brain Bugs is an excellent account of brain function and the ways in which our evolutionary heritage makes us prone to certain kinds of erroneous thoughts. Buonomano looks at such things as eye-witness accounts, memory, fear, temporal distortion, learning, religion, and why we are susceptible to influence from advertising and propaganda.

Interesting and well written.
I wish this hadn't been recommended to me; I wish I had put it down early instead of reading it all. There is little here that hasn't been reported in the popular science press, Discover, Science News, etc. Moreover, I was distracted by errors in spelling, grammar, or usage on nearly every page. Don't bother with it.
Dec 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book with information on quite a range of "brain bugs": Buonomano covers brain quirks that make advertising work, tells how false memories can be created, gives us the "why" behind optical illusions, and offers theories as to why evolution favors the religious mind. Worth reading.
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Megan by: Audible Sale
Shelves: audible-book
There was little in this book that was new or interesting to me. I've got to stop buying so many audible books that are on sale.
عبدالرحمن عقاب
كتاب بديع رائع. جمع فيه صاحبه أشتاتا من علوم العقل ؛ وعرض لها بأسلوب سهل سلس. وحاول ربط الظواهر بالبنية الشبكية للدماغ.
Ivan Raszl
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some really interesting ideas in this book!
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an engaging introduction to a very cool topic: why do our brains have "bugs"? The book covers phenomena such as image and sound processing, "priming" (the act of tricking the brain to give a certain answer by the proceeding question), the existence of religious views, and the limitations of computation. The examples given and studies discussed are all relevant and enlightening.

My main disappointment with the book was the lack of scientific depth. It is a really great overview, especial
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book is for scientist and laypersons equally. Well set out examples for points made, well-written, easily understood. with the exception of one segment of chapter 4 explaining how neurons work in the brain with is later simplified and analogues are given for better understanding. I would recommend to anyone over 12 years old to 100.
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Dean Buonomano is a professor in the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology and the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles.
“But complaining that you have a bad memory for names or numbers is a bit like whining about your smartphone functioning poorly underwater.” 3 likes
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