How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

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The first book to use the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience to help us make the best decisions

Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we “blink” and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind’s black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they’re discovering that this is not how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason—and the precise mix depends on the situation. When buying a house, for example, it’s best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we’re picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.

Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edge research as well as the real-world experiences of a wide range of “deciders”—from airplane pilots and hedge fund investors to serial killers and poker players.

Lehrer shows how people are taking advantage of the new science to make better television shows, win more football games, and improve military intelligence. His goal is to answer two questions that are of interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better?

About Jonah Lehrer

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Jonah Lehrer is editor at large for Seed magazine and the author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist (2007) and How We Decide (February 2009). A graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes Scholar, Lehrer has worked in the lab of Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel and has written for the New Yorker, Wired, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and Nature, and writes a highly regarded blog, The Frontal Cortex.  Lehrer also commentates for NPR’s Radio Lab.
Published January 1, 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company. 302 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Lehrer also looks at anecdotal evidence of those theories in action, ranging from the incredible efforts of a pilot to land a plane after its hydraulic systems failed (a prime example of using the reason center of the brain to conquer fear and take action) to clinical experiments involving tests ...

Dec 01 2008 | Read Full Review of How We Decide

The New York Times

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An exploration of the brain’s mechanics in the process of making decisions, with illustrative examples.

Mar 22 2009 | Read Full Review of How We Decide

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As an introduction to the cognitive struggle between the brain’s “executive” rational centers and its more intuitive regions, “How We Decide” succeeds with great panache, though readers of other popular books on this subject (Antonio Damasio’s “Descartes’ Error” and Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional In...

Mar 18 2009 | Read Full Review of How We Decide

USA Today

Lehrer offers up plenty of interviews with pilots, football players and poker players.

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Open Letters Monthly

That other horse, obedient and of good breeding, is nevertheless, as Plato puts it, “forcibly constrained by a sense of shame.” When the charioteer and his horses approach a beloved individual, the soul “is afraid and, feeling awe, recoils on his back” because of the conservatism of the shame-fi...

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Bookmarks Magazine

ISBN: 0618620117 "In this entertaining, insightful book that combines neuroscience with in-depth anecdotes about decision-making by shoppers, NFL quarterbacks, professional poker players, and others, Jonah Lehrer argues that the best decisions are not only rational but blend reason and feeling.

Feb 16 2009 | Read Full Review of How We Decide

Chamber Four

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Oct 12 2010 | Read Full Review of How We Decide

Ford Literary Blog

Even the best minds make mistakes, but the best decision makers analyze their errors and learn from them.

Jul 31 2009 | Read Full Review of How We Decide

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