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259 pages, Hardcover
First published February 9, 2009
The brain is our defining organ, giving us not only self-awareness, but also the ability to wonder about ourselves, our world, and our own mortality. It is, nevertheless, a mystery why brains work better than others---why some of us make consistently good decisions, and others never seem to learn from their mistakes.
In How We Decide, author Jonah Lehrer explores our current understanding of the human mind. In well-crafted and engaging prose, he draws on examples from professional football players to airline pilots, gambling casinos to modern politics, he demonstrates how different parts of our brain respond to different kinds of stimuli---and how, in a well-trained and adaptable mind, we shift seamlessly between our rational left hemisphere and our emotional and intuitive left side, as we confront the challenges of life.
Tightly tightly written and entertaining, How We Decide is intended more for general audiences than academics, who might find its descriptions and explanations too basic to help in their professional work. For the rest of us, however, it is thought-provoking and helpful, bringing us the benefits of modern research without the burden of academic jargon.
With Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has cornered the market on popular studies of human behavior. But Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide holds its own with Gladwell, Stephen Pinker, Daniel Dennett, and the host of science writers increasingly focused on the complexities of the human brain. "There isn't any spectacular revelation, unique viewpoint or knockout final summation," noted the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post felt that Lehrer "does little to integrate science's contradictory findings." Lehrer nonetheless illuminates the many processes involved in even the simplest decisions. By letting the experts do much of the talking and by drawing conclusions from his voluminous research and knowledge of the field, Lehrer presents a readable account of what we know about how we decide -- and acknowledges the vast universe of what we don't.
This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.