Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives

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Overview

“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 ...

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Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives

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Overview

“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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Few people know as much about the miracles of the human brain as the author of this book. As a professor at UCLA's Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology and the Brain Research Institute, Dr. Dean Buonomano studies the intricacies our cognitive functions as his fulltime occupation. That said, he knows more than most that thanks to the quirks of evolution, our brains have "bugs" analogous to software flaws that blur our memories, skew our judgment, and give us a false sense of certainty. Brain Bugs is much more than a good excuse; it's a fascinating in-depth look at one thing that makes everything else approachable. Editor's recommendation.

Sam Harris
“An ingenious idea, and Buonomano has fully delivered on its promise. . . . A remarkably accessible and engaging introduction to the neuroscience of the human condition.”
Joseph LeDoux
“A great book, filled with nuggets about how the brain works—and falters—and even some suggestions on how to put it to better use.”
Christopher Chabris
[Buonomano] takes readers on a lively tour of systematic biases and errors in human thinking, citing examples that are staples of psychology courses and other popular books. What is new, however, is Buonomano's focus on the mechanisms of memory, especially its "associative architecture," as the main causes of the brain's bugs.
—The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
UCLA neurobiology and psychology professor Buonomano presents an interesting study of how and why our brains sometimes fail when we try to remember long lists of information, add large numbers, or make long-term decisions. While the intelligence of humans continues to evolve, our brains remain far from perfect, exemplified by unreliable memory manipulated by advertising, distrust of people different from us, and belief in superstitions and the supernatural. In explaining these "bugs," the author delves deep into the fascinating realm of the brain's innermost workings, using the identifiable metaphor of computer hardware and software. The focus on lay language helps to connect listeners with the author's research, which suggests that human successes, failures, joys, and sufferings are the product of protein interactions and electrical changes taking place inside the brain. Buonomano's heavily researched, highly specialized work is well read by Southern Oregon University political science professor William Hughes. While this title is best suited to students and faculty in clinical neuroscience fields, Buonomano still manages to make highly sophisticated brain research understandable to lay audiences interested in human behavior. [Includes a PDF of diagrams and illustrations from the text.—Ed.]—Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393342222
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/6/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 627,240
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dean Buonomano is a professor in the Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology and the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Memory Web 19

2 Memory Upgrade Needed 47

3 Brain Crashes 70

4 Temporal Distortions 94

5 Fear Factor 120

6 Unreasonable Reasoning 142

7 The Advertising Bug 171

8 The Supernatural Bug 197

9 Debugging 220

Acknowledgments 237

Notes 241

Bibliography 263

Credits 297

Index 299

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 1, 2011

    Not much new

    If you've read Oliver Sacks then this book doesn't provide much new information

    Also, the author's left wing bias comes through in a book that is not about politics. I'm sure he sees himself as clever but I found it unnecessary and off-putting.

    6 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted July 21, 2011

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    Posted January 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2011

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    Posted August 17, 2011

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