Bela's Reviews > How We Decide

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
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's review
Aug 17, 2011

really liked it

I have always had an interest in understanding how the human mind works, so when I saw this book at the airport, I had to pick it up. After all, what else was I going to do on a five hour plan ride from Orlando to LA? This book definitely does not have a story. It's more of a hybrid between a psychology text book and real life case studies. Lehrer relates decision making to things that "normal" people are interested in, like sports, poker, wine, food, etc, and I think that is what makes this a page-turner.

There are so many things about the human mind that fascinate me, but the what fascinates me the most is its ability to adapt. How else do you think evolution happened? The brain learned that it didn't need certain body parts and needed other ones and after an extremely long period of changes, here we are, the human being. I was watching a documentary about the first year of a child's life and how helpless the human baby is compared to any other mammal infant. But it is because of this helpless state, the brain is able to absorb so many different things, like language, how to interact with others, and to think rationally and emotionally at the same time. This is what makes us human. Lehrer tries to explain that emotions are actually a good thing (how many times does your significant other tell you you're being "too" emotional? - tell him to read this book!). Emotions combined with rational thinking leads to the best decisions. He also explains phenomenons like that feeling is when you just know something is right, and why it's okay you don't know why you feel that way. Sometimes it's better not to think about things to much: for example, there was a study done to test flavors of jam. When people were asked to pick the one the liked the best, the pick Brand A, but when they were asked to pick the brand they liked the best and WHY they liked it the best, they ended up picking a completely different brand. Sometimes it's better just to rely on instinct than on rationality, and of course, vice versa! Lehrer covers his ass, and also discusses why trusting only your emotions isn't always the right thing to do, by giving us a look into a gambling addict's mind. The gambler keeps thinking that he is going to win because he has a feeling, but if he followed his rational mind, he would know to get out. At the end of the day, he tries to say that although you need both the rational and emotional mind, knowing when to use each one is the best way to become a better decision maker.

I would recommend reading this book if you have any interest in trying to understand consumer behavior (that's why I picked up this book). Understanding why the mind works the way it does is that best way to learn how to influence that mind. Don't think I'm evil for saying that - that's just how marketing works and why it's a science. =)
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