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Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,699 ratings  ·  443 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, 336 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…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)

Community Reviews

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3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,699 ratings  ·  443 reviews

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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
“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 l
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.
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.
Maria Espadinha
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Um Fabuloso um pouco Idiota

Bem!... Isto de chamar idiota ao órgão que inventou a roda, o cinema, a teoria da relatividade e levou o Homem à lua, até parece contra-senso!
Mas, enfim!... A verdade é que nada é perfeito, e até mesmo um órgão extraordinário como o nosso cérebro é capaz de alguns impropérios ;)
Convém conhecê-los e emendá-los sempre que possível, para prevenir danos maiores!

Por exemplo, o desastre de Chernobyl, foi atribuído a erros cometidos por engenheiros sobrecarregados, pois um c
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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 Im sorry; youre 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 od
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.
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
Joshua 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
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.
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uživala sam čitajući i dosađivala okolini prepričavanjem posebno zanimljivih delova o tome kako nas sve rođeni mozak navodi na stranputicu ili otkud nam neke osobine na koje baš i nismo ponosni. Autor nije preterivao ni sa terminologijom ni sa duhovitošću, našao je baš pravu meru u jasnom i prijemčivom izlaganju svega što treba znati o mozgu čak i ako vas neuronauka ne zanima.
Steven Baumann
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
From someone who is not a brain expert, this book was entertaining, insightful, and accessible.

I learned a lot and I was entertained. Dean Burnett has my attention as a teacher of the unknown. BUY THIS BOOK!

--Goodreads Giveaway

عبدالرحمن عقاب
كتابٌ دون الجيّد في مستواه، وكان يمكن له أن يكون أفضل مستوىً؛ لولا تشعّب المواضيع التي طرحها الكاتب وثرثرته في كثيرٍ من الصفحات. فأدّى ذلك إلى فصولٍ مملّة ومواضيع متشعبة لم تُغّطَ بشكلٍ وافٍ وإن احتوت -بالتأكيد- على فوائد ومعلومات مهمة.
Chaitanya Sethi
'The Idiot Brain' is a fun breezy book about how our brain, supposedly the gold standard in the animal world, is so deeply and utterly flawed, even when it works at peak. The book discusses in detail about myriad flaws that plague it, ranging from issues with intelligence, to fear, stress, perception etc. What I enjoyed most though, was Dean's sense of humour. It was funny without trying too hard. He gave the vibe of a fun professor engaging his students in class.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kniha „Mozek Sabotér“ od Deana Burnetta byla v knihovně mým zcela náhodným výběrem, avšak ten se tentokrát ukázal překvapivě hodnotným. Kniha je protkána neuvěřitelným množstvím informacím, souvisejících s naším mozkem a jeho rozhodováním se. Ku prospěchu autora je nutno říct, že vše je podloženo studiemi a citacemi. Nenechte se odradit obalem, obsah stojí za to.
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jammer van de populaire titel en soms wat verveeld, maar erg goed leesbaar en begrijpelijk over dit onderwerp.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I tend to read a lot in this genre, so I was worried that it would be all studies and stuff that I had heard before. And there are a few, but mostly, it's more general brain stuff. It's much more day to day than some of the heavier psychological books I've read, so learning about stuff that happens to you but you don't know why. There's also quite a bit that's relevant right now in regards to biases, groupthink and why we can be terrible to people in need of help instead of empathetic. I really ...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 t
“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.” 9 likes
More quotes…