Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Livesby Dean Buonomano
The human brain may be the best piece of technology ever created, but it’s far from perfect. Drawing on colorful examples and surprising research, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano exposes the blind spots
“Excellent. . . . [Buonomano] reveals the intricate limitations and blessings ?of the most complex device in the known universe.”The Atlantic
The human brain may be the best piece of technology ever created, but it’s far from perfect. Drawing on colorful examples and surprising research, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano exposes the blind spots and weaknesses that beset our brains and lead us to make misguided personal, professional, and financial decisions. Whether explaining why we are susceptible to advertisements or demonstrating how false memories are formed, Brain Bugs not only explains the brain’s inherent flaws but also gives us the tools to counteract them.
The New York Times Book Review
Putting the analogy of the computer to good use, Buonomano (Neurobiology and Psychology/UCLA) makes the case that "our lives are governed by brain bugs" of which we are unaware, although unfortunately there are no "patches, updates or upgrades" to easily remedy the situation.
While digital computers surpass the human brain when it comes to processing information and performing numerical calculations, our brains operate by pattern recognition, which simultaneously accounts for their strengths and their weaknesses. A trivial example is the use of CAPTCHA authentication software, which bars web robots from spamming websites. The author compares the "approximately 90 billion neurons linked by 100 trillion synapses in the human brain" to the "approximately 20 billion Web pages connected by a trillion links." The key, however, is not the brain's numerical advantage but our ability to extract meaning from the context in which words appear—e.g., the difference between the household pet and the computer mouse. Human learning occurs by association as new synapses are weakened, strengthened or newly formed between neurons that fire simultaneously. This leave us vulnerable to marketers, as was the case when ads showcased celebrities smoking cigarettes. Similarly, the way a question is framed can bias the response, and a lie repeated often enough is fixed in our memory. Buonomano suggests that while we associate cause and effect for things that occur within seconds, over longer periods are judgment becomes weaker. For example, we often fail to save enough for retirement, and the lure of instant gratification makes us vulnerable to manipulation in our purchases and our political choices.
Intriguing take on behavioral economics, marketing and human foibles.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
Dean Buonomano is the author of Your Brain Is a Time MachineandBrain Bugs: How the Brain’s
Flaws Shape Our Lives. A neuroscientist and professor at UCLA,
and a leading theorist of the neuroscience of time, he lives in Los
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