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Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  5,627 ratings  ·  641 reviews
It's happened to all of us at some point. You walk into the kitchen, or flip open your laptop, or stride confidently up to a lectern, filled with purpose—and suddenly haven't the foggiest idea what you’re doing. Welcome to your idiot brain.

Yes, it is an absolute marvel in some respects—the seat of our consciousness, the pinnacle (so far) of evolutionary progress, and the e
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published July 26th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published May 17th 2016)
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Richard Haller Sounds like this dude already had his mind made up to reject the book without having to read it.. As Kristin Davison pointed out, it is simply the Bri…moreSounds like this dude already had his mind made up to reject the book without having to read it.. As Kristin Davison pointed out, it is simply the British spelling of "fetal".

Next time you might want to check with Google before you embarrass yourself.(less)

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Ahmed Samir
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the most wonderful popular science books I have been lucky to come across. Although sometimes the examples diverge from the point, Burnett’s comedy and wit tend to make it worthwhile and very enjoyable. The book is plagued with scientific riches presented in the most elegant way possible. I not only learned loads from the book, but have used it for episodes on my YouTube channel.

Extremely accessible and very enjoyable!
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

^Are you excited already?

Well, my idiot brain genuinely liked this book very much, and it's always right, isn't it? (not really). Admittedly, specialists would probably find the explanations simplistic (I extrapolate), but then, why would they read this book in the first place? Neuroscientists, this book is not for you. You think you're so clever, right? (hehe) Anyway, given that my knowledge on the subject is very limited (understand : I studied language and metacognition in teaching school, h
Greta G
“Dedicated to every human with a brain. It’s not an easy thing to put up with, so well done.”

Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist who also dabbles in stand-up comedy and writes a popular science blog ‘Brain Flapping’ for the Guardian, has written a very accessible and entertaining book on the weird and peculiar processes in the brain that influence everything we say, do and experience.

Our sense of self and all that goes with it – memory, language, emotion, perception and so on – is supported by proce
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
I have never needed well researched neuropsychology to tell me that my brain is an idiot. The years I have spent alive have proved this to me without question. What this book has allowed me to feel is relief that i'm not the only idiot and the reasons why. Thankfully it's given me an out for some of the ridiculous behaviour I have displayed in the past (and still sometimes do if i'm honest). On the other hand, it's become clear that some of it is still just me. Oh well.

Written in an engaging, hu
Will Once
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stonking (a technical term).

This is one of those "popular science" books. These normally fall into one of two categories. Some are well written but not very authoritative. Others are not very well written, but well researched. In other words, the usual choice is between insubstantial fluff and weighty but indigestible text book.

The Idiot Brian is that rarest of rare things. A science book that is both well researched and well written.

Highly recommended. And five stars.

It is especially recommende
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist. He writes a regular blog for The Guardian, called Brain Flapping. And his writing style is not just entertaining, it is spirited and humorous and faithful to the science as well. Oh, and did I mention that he is a stand-up comedian? He signs his name "Dean Burnett, Ph.D. (no, really)"

While most of this book is about psychology, he grounds quite a lot of his discussions in descriptions of the parts of the brain that are responsible for different actions. And, I

Who says books about the brain have to be boring? In Idiot Brain, neuroscientist Dean Burnett explained how the most complex organ in the human body is both awe-inspiring and...idiotic.

My greatest take-away from Idiot Brain is that the brain isn't evolved enough--or rather, it's very stuck in the past. This is how it's idiotic. It responds to situations in ways that don't always make sense because it's still responding to ancient situations, not the modern ones it now needs to.
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very humane and entertaining look at how the brain works (and works against us). It's only downside is I felt an annoying need to read out various passages to whoever would listen.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Pop neuroscience at its best!

Good job, Dr. Dean Burnett! Good job indeed!

This book has been written by Dr. Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist who used to write a satirical science column for the Guardian.

I had come across this book in a book sale; the cover attracted my attention, the title and the blurb piqued my interest.

I must say that I did enjoy this light-hearted book on the human brain, and while reading this book I was constantly reminded of Oliver Sack’s seminal work – The Man Who Mistook
Dana Ilie
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Dana by: Ionut Stuparu
I am deeply disappointed.
An unattractive blend of information, without salt and pepper, nothing innovative.
Clif Hostetler
Oct 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science

Neurology writ simple, this book provides an easy to understand description of the functioning of the brain and nervous system. Chapters are dedicated to the subjects of brain/body connections, memory, fear, intelligence, observational systems, personality, sociability, and mental health.

The audacious use of the word "idiot" in the title is a bit off-putting, but it probably communicates a similar message as those books titled, "(blank) for Dummies." It makes clear that the author and publisher
K.J. Charles
A very readable popular science book from a neuroscientist/comedian (yeah, so many of them). Lots of good jokes and the technical bits are conveyed as lightly as possible for a lay reader. My main takeaway is to see the brain as something of a mess, a cobbled together lot of stuff rather than a brilliantly adapted organ. Explains a lot.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
While this book may not be easy to read through, it was well worth the effort. I am sure that neuroscience junkies will enjoy this book. For myself, with only a slight background of this topic, I found the terminology and whatnot to be a little hard to remember, but Burnett excels in bringing analogs to his readers. I love that he compares many of the brain's processes to everyday events. Burnett writes well in the sense that I can always get a chuckle out of reading a chapter. The subjects in t ...more
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up as it seemed a natural progression from the education-based books I’d been reading, and for the most part, it was. It is however, a book of two halves, interestingly – or coincidentally, just like the brain.

The first half has its roots in the psychology/biology relationship and was massively informative - in the educational perspective (I should say here that I listened to the audio book, which has probably the best narration of any I have encountered. Well done Mr Addis, outsta
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Idiot Brain is a delve into the messy ways the brain works and how it can sometimes go awry. It touches upon a variety of interesting topics, including what is intelligence, how does memory work, what determines personality, and what happens when the brain isn't working correctly.

My favorite section is Chapter 7's discussion about the brain's tendency to favor a "just and fair world", so if we see bad things happen to others, we tend to blame them, especially if the victim is someone we strongly
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
فيديو المراجعة:

Amazing, informative and well-written in a very clever way.
He is explaining boring scientific stuff with a sense of humor and with a LOT of simplification.
For me as a pharmacist, I knew most of the scientific things he mentioned but it would be brand new information for non medical professions.
It's a great introduction into neuroscience and psychology.
There's a various topics about how we perceive our world through our brains, how we interac
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not a bad book, but not quite what I was looking for. I am by no means an expert in neuroscience, but even for me that was a bit basic. The majority of the experiments mentioned are just common knowledge, like the Stanford Prison experiment, and a lot of the explanations were on the level of my high school neurobiology classes. I found the writing style condescending at times, and the attempts at humour tiresome.
Ed Erwin
Nothing in here was new to me. I've studied all this stuff too long already. But, this is the first book on the subject that I've read that was written by a neuroscientist who is also a stand-up comedian. I never actually LOL-ed, but was amused at times.
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I saw this book at the airport while travelling some months ago, but didn't buy it. I then saw it at a friend's the other week and she let me borrow it. I knew I would like it from the first paragraph about "Gary". A humorous look at the human brain, it covers a multitude of subjects we would all do well to learn about. My favourite parts included the 'just world' (just as in fair) idea, which makes a lot of sense from what I see happening around me, and the chapter on depression because the aut ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm so happy I finally finished this book, but I'm so sad I finally finished this book. Ironic, but any bookaholic will relate. It's one of those unique books that will stay on my 'to read again and again' shelf. Burnett made it clear how our brains can be bizarre yet so complex. What's super distinct about this book is the format it's written in: informal to a point that you'll feel that the author is talking directly to you. It's really not a normal scientific book, for almost all details in t ...more
I like to judge books by the author's photograph (jk!), and this one may be the best I've ever seen. Now that is one neuroscientist I'd be delighted to meet! (not joking now - really, that's a guy you'd want a chat with!).
Funny dude! Good writing, interesting! Probably the only neuroscientist to have read both Neil Strauss and Daniel Kahneman...or, hmmm, on second thought maybe just the only one to admit it ("it's for research!").
It was just a little too overview for me; I've brushed up agains
Michael Legge
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shame he dies in the end.
James Hartley
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"...if you feel the brain is a mysterious and ineffable object, some borderline-mystical construct, the bridge between human experience and the realms of the unknown, etc, then I´m sorry; you´re really not going to like this book." So starts this brilliant and brilliantly written book, and from the introduction, you have been warned.
Dr Burnett, a journalist and neuroscientist, is the best guide you could hope for - entertaining, witty, amusing and informative - as he takes you on a tour of this
Idiot Brain is a great, easily accessible introduction to neuroscience and psychology of human behaviour. If you've never read on the subject I can't think of a better place to start. Dean Burnett is writing in a light-hearted, clear style that is sure to appeal to most readers not looking for an academic tome. Because I've educated myself a little on the topic, I did find some chapters familiar, but a good refresher. If you've ever wondered why people might be irrationally scared of shadows in ...more
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Clever and insightful. I really admire his work - My brain found it irresistibly captivating :)
It's unpredictable and entertaining; the best kind of popular science out there.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
There were moments of ah ha. There were moments of ha has. But there were too moments where the author's lame jokes spoilt his narrative on what a strange and still not fully understood thing the brain is.
Literatures Movies


I learned a lot about the brain from this book, but can't say it was a fun read.

May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
My second consecutive non-fiction book, and it's another (popular) science book - not always my best subject. Once again, a Goodreads First Reads giveaway win. This sounded pretty interesting and did not disappoint. The subjects and details are easy enough for a non-science type like me to follow and understand and the writing flows smoothly, easy to read, and often humorous. (Example: "Intelligence, like irony or daylight-saving time, is something most people have a basic grasp of but struggle ...more
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Your brain is the most remarkable thing about you because it makes you you. So, when Dean Burnett, Ph.D. chose to describe all that the brain does to make you amazing, he did it in a uniquely humane and entertaining way. His popular science book Idiot Brain: What Your Head is Really Up To is well-researched, well-written, and highly recommended for anyone interested in learning about how the brain works, fails to work, and even works against you.

What makes Idiot Brain so wonderful is that it’s n
Joshua I. James
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Idiot Brain starts of hilarious and almost tricks us into learning by slowly easing into how the brain works (or doesn't). Dean Burnett keeps the book light and humorous while going into the complex workings of the human brain. The author tends to introduce a concept in a relatively technical way, and then explain it with everyday thought malfunctions that leave the reader severely conscious of all of the processes that is going on with their body; I can still feel my eyes constantly jumping ...more
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Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist and psychiatry lecturer at the Centre for Medical Education at Cardiff University and is the author of the Guardian’s most-read science blog, Brain Flapping. He lives in Cardiff.

The following is from his website:

This is the website for Doctor Dean Burnett, neuroscientist, lecturer, author, blogger, media pundit, science communicator, comedian and numerous other

News & Interviews

Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
69 likes · 33 comments
“What have we learned so far about the human brain? It messes with memories, it jumps at shadows, it's terrified of harmless things, it screws with our diet, our sleeping, our movement, it convinces us we're brilliant when we're not, it makes up half the stuff we perceive, it gets us to do irrational things when emotional, it causes us to make friends incredibly quickly and turn on them in an instant.
A worrying list. What's even more worrying, it does all of this when it's working properly.”
“The brain apparently thinks logic is a precious resource to be used only sparingly.” 12 likes
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