HOW WE DECIDE: mind-blowing neuroscience of decision-making


24 Responses to “HOW WE DECIDE: mind-blowing neuroscience of decision-making”

  1. Yehuda Berlinger says:

    As Dr Frasier Crane would point out: Unless the book pages somehow flapped wind onto your cerebellum, the book did not “(literally) blow” your mind. It figuratively blew your mind.


  2. Keneke says:

    That last paragraph reminds me of a quote from Calvin Coolidge:

    “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

  3. Secret_Life_of_Plants says:

    Oh no! Not the “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” guy! Really? Do people like COry Doctorow take him seriously? That’s disheartening. I’d never heard of him before *that* book and hoped it was a one-off. Now I see that he’s entwined with all kind of people I respect! Yet *that* book couldn’t have been more flawed and specious and historically and scientifically wrong! It is even a standing in-joke between my friends and me. Sigh.

  4. rschndr says:

    Why do ya think they call it ‘dopamine,’ dope?

    How do these ideas relate to politics? I’ve long suspected that “rational” generally ain’t got a hell of a lot to do with it. I don’t recall which of Heinlein’s books – “Starship Troopers”, maybe? – suggested that one’s politics are an extension of one’s emotional makeup, for which the mind supplies handsome and admirable rationalizations. That idea has really been with me, this last several years.

    Can’t wait to read it!

  5. Anonymous says:

    CBT has at least one other meaning that comes to mind.

  6. h20thug says:

    Here’s a little Noe for balance:

  7. Anonymous says:

    Helps explain why those who strive for the “Platonic ideal” of purely rational thought often come off as whimpy flip-floppers since one can often find ways to rationalize decisions any number of ways. Decision-making must have a time limit, and emotional gut response must be the tie breaker to avoid a perpetual state of analysis-paralysis. The accuracy of that gut response improves with practice… use the force!

  8. Pyros says:

    I this book can be mentioned in the same breathe as Stumbling on Happiness, it is surely worth a read.

  9. overunger says:

    Well, CHOCOLATE , obviously -hello!?

    I mean, c’mon…

  10. noahpoah says:

    I may be misremembering (which would be fitting), but I don’t recall much (if any) neuroscience in Stumbling on Happiness. I recall it being pretty much all straight behavioral, experimental psychology.

  11. foop says:

    The cover of the book reminds me a lot of the original cover of Nigella Lawson’s “How to Eat”.

    Coincidence? Or something more sinister?

  12. Brainspore says:

    I get that the book cover graphic is meant to represent “choices,” but my first thought was still “yum, Neapolitan!”

  13. Milarepa says:

    I’m a neuroscientist. :D Neuroscience rules! Neurooooscieeeence!!!

  14. noahpoah says:

    Okay, I hadn’t read the whole post when I commented that Stumbling on Happiness isn’t (by my recollection) about neuroscience. Based on the descriptions of the experiments in this post, though, it sounds like How We Decide isn’t either, at least not completely.

    Or it might be better to say that, to the extent that it’s about neuroscience, it is only trivially so, by virtue of the fact that we use our brains when we behave. Hence, observations of behavior can be used to infer neurological underpinnings of behavior.

    Going much further than that with behavioral results seems problematic to me, though. ‘Homuncularizing’ the brain (e.g., saying things like ‘the brain overvalues loss’) doesn’t explain anything, it just moves the problem down (or in) a level. People (may) overvalue loss; it seems more appropriate to me to discuss constructs like ‘overvaluation’ in terms of organisms (i.e., the units exhibiting the behavior we’re observing).

    To the extent that neuroscientific models offer something other than homuncularization, they are, or at least can be, useful. To the extent that they provide information that is redundant with behavior, I’m not so sure.

    By the way, Jerry Fodor has a nice essay on why the brain is irrelevant to cognitive science:link.

  15. gregnnn says:

    After reading that detailed review there is no way I’m going to buy that book.

  16. Anthony says:

    This is a fascinating subject, to be sure, but I remember reading at least 4 reviews of “Proust Was a Neuroscientist,” and each of them was rather negative, so I don’t know whether I’d call it “celebrated.”

  17. Anonymous says:

    Great article.

    I just can’t decide whether to buy the book or not.

  18. Fang Xianfu says:

    Wow, that’s, er, quite a review you have there Cory. But this book does sound EXCELLENT, and I’ll certainly give it a look!

  19. Anonymous says:

    I’m wondering how failure and experience affect introspection. Divorced parents, freed of the shackles of joyful suburban conformity, tend to purchase the smaller house in the city as they are neither here nor there and are in both need of and have reason to avoid long commutes and experience nightlife, even infrequently. I am wondering if practical stressors are in fact helpful as they get us out of our mind games.

  20. ron says:

    all fluff.. there for less info.
    but he really knows how to make people decide to buy his products.

  21. Anonymous says:

    not really fair to say the “*Platonic* ideal of a rational being making decisions without recourse to the wordless gut-instinct.” Plato famously believed the soul was divided into reason, will/spirit, and emotions/”gut-instinct” and that a person only operated at his best when all three were balanced.

    socrates was the rationality=knowledge=virtue guy. plato abandoned that formula, even without the help of brain scans

  22. Anonymous says:

    I have this inexplicable urge to buy this book now.

  23. jonathanbruder says:

    Lehrer is a frequent contributer to WNYC’s Radiolab. If you are interested in books like this, you should check out the excellent program, which is available as a podcast.


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