How We Decide
  • How We Decide
  • How We Decide

How We Decide

3.9 212
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

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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?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Cash or credit? Punt or go for first down? Deal or no deal? Life is filled with puzzling choices. Reporting from the frontiers of neuroscience and armed with riveting case studies of how pilots, quarterbacks, and others act under fire, Jonah Lehrer presents a dazzlingly authoritative and accessible account of how we make decisions, what’s happening in our heads as we do so, and how we might all become better ‘deciders.’ Luckily, this one’s a no-brainer: Read this book.”—Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)

"Over the past two decades, research in neuroscience and behavioral economics has revolutionized our understanding of human decision making. Jonah Lehrer brings it all together in this insightful and enjoyable book, giving readers the information they need to make the smartest decisions.”—Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes’ Error and Looking for Spinoza

“Jonah Lehrer ingeniously weaves neuroscience, sports, war, psychology, and politics into a fascinating tale of human decision making. In the process, he makes us much wiser.”—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

“Should we go with instinct or analysis? The answer, Lehrer explains, in this smart and delightfully readable book, is that it depends on the situation. Knowing which method works best in which case is not just useful but fascinating. Lehrer proves once again that he’s a master storyteller and one of the best guides to the practical lessons from new neuroscience.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail

“As Lehrer describes in fluid prose, the brain’s reasoning centers are easily fooled, often making judgments based on nonrational factors like presentation (a sales pitch or packaging)...Lehrer is a delight to read, and this is a fascinating book (some of which appeared recently, in a slightly different form, in the New Yorker) that will help everyone better understand themselves and their decision making.” —Publisher's Weekly, starred review

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A talented journalist taps the latest research in neuroscience and behavioral economics to explain what we now know about human decision making.

Each of us makes thousands of decisions a day; so many, in fact, that we make most of them without much forethought or rational reflection. But, as Jonah Lehrer proves in this persuasive book, making "rational decisions" about even the most consequential matters isn't always the wisest strategy. Drawing on cutting-edge studies, he describes how our minds evaluate incoming data and why the optimal mix of feeling and reason depends on the problem at hand. Packed with surprises, How We Decide brims with counterintuitive advice: New Yorker contributor Lehrer argues, for instance, that it's best to emotionally "feel out" major purchases, such as buying a house, before making the jump. Stimulating reading for fans of Malcolm Gladwell.
Peter D. Kramer
…[Lehrer's] expert at both storytelling and hard science. is always fascinating
—The Washington Post
Steven Johnson
Explaining decision-making on the scale of neurons makes for a challenging task, but Lehrer handles it with confidence and grace. 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 Intelligence, for example) will be familiar with a number of the classic experiments Lehrer describes.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

What is going on in the brain of a pilot deciding how to handle an emergency or a man trying to escape a wildfire? Does reason or emotion rule our decision making? Seed magazine editor-at-large Lehrer (Proust Was a Neuroscientist) brings recent research in neurobiology to life as he shows that the view, dating back to Plato, of the decision-making brain as a charioteer (reason) trying to control wild horses (emotions) comes up short. As Lehrer describes in fluid prose, the brain's reasoning centers are easily fooled, often making judgments based on nonrational factors like presentation (a sales pitch or packaging). And Lehrer cites a study of investors given varying amounts of financial data to show that our inner charioteer also can be confused by too much information. Even more surprisingly, research shows that "gut instinct" often does make better decisions than long, drawn-out reasoning, and people with impaired emotional responses have trouble coping with the decisions required in everyday life. Lehrer is a delight to read, and this is a fascinating book (some of which appeared recently, in a slightly different form, in the New Yorker) that will help everyone better understand themselves and their decision making. (Feb. 9)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Rhodes scholar Lehrer (Proust Was a Neuroscientist) takes listeners on a journey through how the human brain makes decisions, exploring factors that influence decision-making and combining medical diagnostic data with real-life examples. While Malcolm Gladwell's Blink discussed from afar how reason and intuition influence snap decisions, Lehrer's book digs more deeply into new research from the fields of psychology, sociology, and neuroscience to provide an erudite, scholarly view of the inner workings of the human brain as it makes decisions. Audie Award nominee David Colacci's (The Suspect) evenhanded delivery will help listeners of this often technical material stay focused. For interested lay readers as well as students and professors of psychology/psychiatry. [Audio clip available through—Ed.]—Dale Farris, Groves, TX

—Dale Farris
Kirkus Reviews
A Gladwellian exploration of the brain's inner workings during the decision-making process. Given the recent deluge of pop-science books, readers may find it difficult to make a selection. Enter Seed and Scientific American contributor Lehrer's second book (Proust Was a Neuroscientist, 2007), a laudable attempt to help people understand how their brains make decisions-and hopefully, improve the process. On the former point, the book is a treasure trove of scientific data, clinical research and real-life examples of decision-making processes. On the latter point, however, it leaves something to be desired. At its best, Lehrer's narrative is a compelling mixture of recently discovered facts and intriguing theories about the differences between the rational and emotional centers of the brain. The author's research indicates, somewhat counterintuitively, that the emotional areas are the primary drivers when making complex decisions that involve multiple variables, such as purchasing a house or car. 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 to see how long unsupervised four-year-olds can resist a marshmallow (not very, in most cases). In its most effective chapters, the book ties research to practical applications, such as a 401(k) program designed to overcome our irrational need for immediate reward (to the detriment of long-term saving) by deferring the start of the program until a few months after employment begins. Other sections lack thesame practical applicability, and the vague generality of much of the decision-making advice feels more therapist than scientist. May not facilitate great improvements in decision-making, but the Cliff Clavins of the world will exult in the factoids and anecdotes. Author tour to New York, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Seattle

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Read an Excerpt

The quick decisions made by a quarterback on a football field provide a window into the inner workings of the brain. In the space of a few frenetic seconds, before a linebacker crushes him into the ground, an NFL quarterback has to make a series of hard choices. The pocket is collapsing around him — the pocket begins to collapse before it exists — but he can’t flinch or wince. His eyes must stay focused downfield, looking for some meaningful sign amid the action, an open man on a crowded field. Throwing the ball is the easy part.
     These passing decisions happen so fast they don’t even seem like decisions. We are used to seeing football on television, captured by the cameras far above the grassy stage. From this distant perspective, the players appear to be moving in some sort of violent ballet; the sport looks exquisitely choreographed. You can see the receivers spread the zone and watch the pocket slowly disintegrate. It’s easy to detect the weak spots of the defense and find the target with man-on-man coverage. You can tell which linebackers bought the play-action fake and see the cornerback racing in on the blitz. When you watch the game from this omniscient angle — coaches call it "the eye in the sky" — it appears as if the quarterback is simply following orders, as if he knows where he is going to throw the ball before the play begins.

     But this view of the game is deeply misleading. After the ball is snapped, the ordered sequence of neat X’s and O’s that fill the spiral-bound playbook degenerates into a street brawl. There’s a symphony of grunts and groans and the meaty echoes of fat men hitting hard ground. Receivers get pushed off their routes, passing angles get cut off, and inside blitzes derail the best intentions. The offensive line is an unpredictable wrestling match. Before the quarterback can make an effective decision, he needs to assimilate all of this new information and be aware of the approximate location of every player on the field.
     The savage chaos of the game, the way every play is a mixture of careful planning and risky improvisation, is what makes the job of an NFL quarterback so difficult. Even while he’s immersed in the violence — the defensive line clawing at his body — the quarterback has to stand still and concentrate. He needs to look past the mayhem and make sense of all the moving bodies. Where is his receiver going? Will the safety break toward the ball? Is the linebacker going to drop back into coverage? Did his tight end pick up the blitz? Before a pass can be thrown — before the open man can be found — all of these questions need to be answered. Each pass is really a guess, a hypothesis launched into the air, but the best quarterbacks find ways to make better guesses. What separates Tom Brady and Joe Montana and Peyton Manning and John Elway and the other great quarterbacks of the modern NFL era from the rest is their ability to find the right receiver at the right time. (The Patriots like to pass out of a five-wide formation, which means that Brady often checks off five different receivers before he decides where to throw the ball.) No other team sport is so dependent on the judgment of a single player.
     NFL scouts take the decision-making skills of quarterbacks very seriously. The league requires that every player in the draft take the Wonderlic intelligence test, which is essentially a shorter version of the standard IQ test. The test is twelve minutes long and consists of fifty questions that get progressively harder as the test goes along. Here’s an example of an easy Wonderlic question:

"Paper sells for 21 cents per pad. What will four pads cost?"

And here’s a hard Wonderlic question:

"Three individuals form a partnership and agree to divide the profits equally. X invests $9,000, Y invests $7,000, Z invests $4,000. If the profits are $4,800, how much less does X receive than if the profits were divided in proportion to the amount invested?"

     The underlying thesis of the Wonderlic test is that players who are better at math and logic problems will make better decisions in the pocket. At first glance, this seems like a reasonable assumption. No other position in sports requires such extreme cognitive talents. Successful quarterbacks need to memorize hundreds of offensive plays and dozens of different defensive formations. They need to spend hours studying game tape of their opponents and be able to put that knowledge to use on the field. In many instances, quarterbacks are even responsible for changing plays at the line of scrimmage. They are like coaches with shoulder pads.
     As a result, an NFL team starts to get nervous when a quarterback’s score on the Wonderlic test is too far below the average for the position. For quarterbacks, the average is 25. (In comparison, the average score for computer programmers is 28. Janitors, on average, score 15, as do running backs.) Vince Young, the star quarterback from the University of Texas, reportedly scored a 6 on the test, which led many teams to publicly question his ability to succeed in the NFL.
     But Young ended up excelling in the pros. And he isn’t the only quarterback who achieved success despite a poor Wonderlic score. Dan Marino scored 14. Brett Favre’s Wonderlic score was 22, and Randall Cunningham and Terry Bradshaw both scored 15. All of these quarterbacks have been or will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. (In recent years, Favre has surpassed many of the passing records once held by Marino, such as most passing yards and touchdowns in a career.) Furthermore, several quarterbacks with unusually high Wonderlic scores — players like Alex Smith and Matt Leinart, who both scored above 35 on the test and were top-ten picks in the 2005 NFL draft — have struggled in the NFL, largely because they make poor decisions on the field.
     The reason there is virtually no correlation between the results of the Wonderlic and the success of quarterbacks in the NFL is that finding the open man involves a very different set of decision-making skills than solving an algebra problem. While quarterbacks need to grapple with complexity — the typical offensive playbook is several inches thick — they don’t make sense of the football field the way they make sense of questions on a multiple-choice exam. The Wonderlic measures a specific kind of thought process, but the best quarterbacks don’t think in the pocket. There isn’t time.
     Take that pass to Troy Brown. Brady’s decision depended on a long list of variables. He needed to know that the linebacker wouldn’t fall back into coverage and that there were no cornerbacks in the area waiting for an interception. After that, he had to calculate the ideal place to hit Brown with the ball so that Brown would have plenty of room to run after the catch. Then he needed to figure out how to make a throw without hitting the defensive lineman blocking his passing lane. If Brady were forced to consciously analyze this decision — if he treated it like a question on the Wonderlic test — then every pass would require a lot of complicated trigonometry as he computed his passing angles on the plane of the football field. But how can you contemplate the math when five angry linemen are running straight at you? The answer is simple: you can’t. If a quarterback hesitates for even a split second, he is going to get sacked.
     So how does a quarterback do it? How does he make a decision? It’s like asking a baseball player why he decided to swing the bat at a particular pitch: the velocity of the game makes thought impossible. Brady can afford to give each receiver only a split second of attention before he has to move on to the next. As soon as he glances at a body in motion, he must immediately decide if that body will be open a few seconds in the future. As a result, a quarterback is forced to evaluate each of his passing alternatives without knowing how he’s evaluating them. Brady chooses a target without understanding why exactly he’s settled on that target. Did he pass to Troy Brown with twenty-nine seconds remaining in the Super Bowl because the middle linebacker had ceded too much space, or because the cornerbacks were following the other receivers downfield and leaving a small gap in the center of the field? Or did Brady settle on Brown because all the other passing options were tightly covered, and he knew that he needed a long completion? The quarterback can’t answer these questions. It’s as if his mind is making decisions without him. Even quarterbacks are mystified by their talents. "I don’t know how I know where to pass," Brady says. "There are no firm rules. You just feel like you’re going to the right place . . . And that’s where I throw it."

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What People are saying about this

Tom Vanderbilt
"Cash or credit? Punt or go for first down? Deal or no deal? - life is filled with puzzling choices. Reporting from the frontiers of neuroscience, and armed with riveting case studies of how pilots, quarterbacks, and others act under fire, Jonah Lehrer presents a dazzlingly authoritative and accessible account of how we make decisions, what's happening in our heads as we do so, and how we might all become better 'deciders.' Luckily, this one's a no-brainer: Read this book."--(Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We do (and What It Says About Us))
Antonio Damasio
"Over the past two decades, research in neuroscience and behavioral economics has revolutionized our understanding of human decision-making. Jonah Lehrer brings it all together in this insightful and enjoyable book, giving readers the information they need to make the smartest decisions."--(Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes' Error and Looking for Spinoza)
Read Montague
"An inviting, high-velocity ride through our most treasured mental act-deciding. This is truly one of the most accessible and richly-informed books on human choice. It's a must read for anyone interested in the human mind and how cutting-edge research changes the way we think about ourselves. A marvelous success."--(Read Montague, Brown Foundation Professor of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine)
Daniel J. Levitin
"The human brain has distinct rational and emotional circuits. When making decisions, we don't always know which one is in control, and we can't always influence the balance. With compelling anecdotes and scientific authority, Jonah Lehrer explains it all eloquently."--(Daniel J. Levitin, author of This is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs)

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Meet the Author

JONAH LEHRER is editor at large for Seed magazine and the author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist. 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, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. He edits the "Mind Matters" blog for Scientific American, and writes his own highly regarded blog, "The Frontal Cortex."

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How We Decide 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 212 reviews.
TimDonaldson More than 1 year ago
In this intriguing little book Jonah Lehrer explores the interplay between emotion and logic in decision making. When should we force back our emotions and engage in logical cost-benefit analysis? Credit cards, totally new situations that we have no experience in, when we can't outrun the fire, etc. When should we rely on instinct and turn our brain off? (When we have a lot of experience and no time to think, such as Tom Brady on his 3rd read with a linebacker closing in, or an opera singer halfway through the song, etc.) When should we get some data, sleep on it, and then decide based on emotion? (When buying houses, cars, or furniture). Chapter 7 caught my interest the most, as he discussed the brain issues involved with Mormons and Republicans. well, he didn't call it that, he called it political partisans who have the sin of certainty, and it works in all ways, but I have been observing and contemplating such minds daily since I returned to Utah after law school in December 2006, and in my zip code, it is Mormons and Republicans who are overcertain about everything, big and little. Contrast all of what follows with Abraham Lincoln as described in 'Team of Rivals', as he purposely filled his cabinet with intellectual and ideological diversity as much as he can. And with Colin Powell, who always asked for 1- what you know 2- what you don't know and 3- what you think, emphasizing that all 3 must always be kept seperate. A brain that's intolerant of uncertainty- that can't stand the argument- often tricks itself into thinking the wrong thing. You just can't short-circuit the process. Unfortunately, the mind often surrenders to the temptation of shoddy top-down thinking. Voters with strong partisan affiliations are a case study in how not for form opinions: their brains are shoddy and impermeable, since they already know what they believe. 9 of 10 registered members of a political party vote for the same party 15 years later. They put partisans in a fMRI machine and exposed them to inconsistencies and conflicting evidence regarding their preferred candidate. The brains showed them use reason to reinforce their certainty. "Once the subjects had arrived at favorable interpretations of the evidence, blithely excusing the contradictions of their chosen candidate, they activated the internal reward circuits in their brains and experienced a rush of pleasurable emotion. Self-delusion, in other words, felt really good. Partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones." This flawed thought process plays a crucial role in our lives. Partisans are convinced that they are rational- and the other side is irrational- but actually, all of us are rationalizers. They can prove this all the time. Politically active Republicans, involved and informed, by large margins, got basic facts wrong about things like the direction of the deficit under Clinton. People assimilate facts that agree with what they already think and reject the rest. "Voters think they are thinking, but what they're really doing is inventing facts or ignoring facts so that they can rationalize decisions they've already made." The world is edited to fit the ideology. At this point, rationality actually becomes a liability, because our prefrontal cortex is just a filter, allowing us to justify practically any belie
BY10 More than 1 year ago
In How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer provides logical reasoning behind the illogical and sometimes life-saving decisions we tend to make on an everyday basis. Lehrer provides reasoning behind decisions people have made in events ranging from landing an out of control plane, to buying one product in a supermarket over the other. Lehrer refers to several scenarios, and with years of research, explains the choices made by individuals involved. In one chapter, Lehrer explains how people are more likely to take a gamble if someone tells you there is a 50% chance of winning, rather than if someone explains that there is a 50% chance of loosing. Another scenario referred to Wag Dodge, a firefighter who overcame emotion in a dangerous situation, in order to save his teammates and his self from a wall of fire. Lehrer explains the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which, in this case, was able to control emotion. This book is filled with situations and scenarios such as this. In each situation, Lehrer analyzes and dissects the scenario, explaining what physical parts of the body provide the incentive to do what each individual did. If your looking for a good book to get lost in, How we Decide doesn't really have the compelling sense of Lord of the rings. However, if you are interested in the reasoning and logic behind peoples choices, and if you are interested in understanding the human persona, How we decide is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting information and great examples to illustrate the points. The brief summary chapter seems like a last-minute addition, so don't look for any incredible concluding insights. But overall, the book is both well done and recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for anyone deeply interested in psychology and/ or cognitive neuroscience. A compelling, organized, and strongly written book to inform readers of what is really going on inside your head while making decisions. A good first read for anyone even remotely interested, yet at the same time an excellent read for anyone already familiar with such a topic. Fascinating, captivating, and mind-blowing.
Lachesis More than 1 year ago
This book addresses memory in a way that is both extremely interesting and highly informative. The examples--even the footnotes-- were intriguing and enlightening. This is the book to show that learning can be enjoyable--for anyone! The organization was also impressive; it moved from topic to topic in a logical manner, addressing items independently and then recapitulating. I adored it!
Jenny_econb00k More than 1 year ago
This book was really informative....I loved the circumstances Lehrer gave to prove his point that there are two parts that are involved in decision-making. I chose this book to read for my economics class and I highly reccomend it.
Compassionate-Nexialist More than 1 year ago
Lehrer summarizes the latest information about how humans decide, with particular emphasis on the pros and cons of relying on logical, conscious information-based decisionmaking as opposed to reliance on "gut" instinct. He provides, in a summary chapter, clear sensible guidelines to help us decide when to depend on which. He enlivens his presentations with gripping illustrations of occasions when people have dealt with critical decisionmaking dilemmas, such as the crisis facing a commercial airline pilot when, high above the rocky mountains, with his, his crewmates', and his passengers' lives hinging on his decisions, he must deal with catastrophic equipment failure. This is a book I would urge on anyone who suffers from abulia, or who would like to deal with life's conundrums as though he were a Vulcan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"How We Decide" is a great non-fiction book that explains the process of decision making. Jonah Lehrer grabs the reader's attention by engaging them into the idea of using the tools of neuroscience to teach them about how making decisions is a blend of feeling and emotion. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about the logic of sports or wanting to know how the mind works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jonah Lehrer paints a vivid and clear picture on how the decision making process is made up in the brain by using scenarios from any category to help you understand what the mind goes through. He does a great job guiding the reader by using the latest tools of neuroscience and is one of the best authors that proves his knowledge about the behavior of the brain. He's also a great storyteller starting from sports to political views and makes the audience feel well informed about the text. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to learn about the logic of sports or just wants to learn about the process of making the right decision.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dannyg123 More than 1 year ago
To me this book was alright, it had a lot of information.  it simply states a bunch of facts and little stories. it was a little confusing for me.  If you are a person who really wants to know more about how people make decisions in life, then i recommend you read this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After hearing Jonah Lehrer a lot on the RadioLab podcast (which I recommend if you liked this book), I thought I'd read the book, and I found it very informative! He explains difficult scientific concepts in an easy to understand way that actually makes it interesting. Even if you didn't like science class, this book makes those ideas relevant and digestible. If you're looking for something stimulating, this will make you sound smart at parties!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone that is not well versed in pschoanalysis, I found this book extremely enlightening. I find myself referencing this book and discussion points on a regular basis, both professionally and personally.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How We Decide was written by Jonah Lehrer . He has written for The New Yorker , the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. How We Decide is a book on psychology and neurology. I think this book’s intended audience from high school aged people and up. The book is intended for the reader to think and understand the way his or her brain breaks down decisions. The title of this book is to the point because what it says is what you’re going to read about. I liked the way the book looks, reads, feels and opens. There are many likeable character in the book including Tom Brady and how he makes quick and precise decisions to lead his team to victory. The theme of this book is how your brain make decision in life. How We Decides writing style includes scientific wording. The main idea of this book is to help the reader think about how they make their own decisions. Main points of the book include many real life situations of people’s important decisions. I recommend the book to reader who wants to discover the way their brain makes decisions. I liked the way it explained the characters in good detail. Some of the words in the book are hard understand but that is the only bad thing about this book. The book really makes the reader think of his or her decisions and how they could have improved
AnnaLouise43 More than 1 year ago
I have never really sat and contemplated how people make decisions in everyday life. This book is one of a great contemplation, and deep inner thought. This is a no-fiction book that states cold true facts that Lehrer takes and makes the reader really relate to it by the stories he tells. The book is intended for a older, more mature audience. The purpose of this book is to show the reader how you make decisions (big, and small) in everyday life. The People that Lehrer mentions in the book seem to be somewhat easy to relate to because of the decisions they made in their life. He tells stories of great triumph and defeat, and the causes of them because the decisions they made. He tells stories of life and death situations or things that are so simple, like picking between a fruit cup or chocolate cake. Stories of how to land a falling plane, and how to escape a charging forest fire. Stories of deciding between amounts of money and receiving small rewards. This book makes you think about things that you would have never thought about in a million years. It’s cool to think that why your thinking about your prefrontal cortex your actually using it. It informs you about things you use to do simple tasks that you never would have even thought or know about. This is a complex writing, personally because of all the different parts of the brain Lehrer mentions and that you have to keep remembering them throughout the book. This book about thinking and the answers to why your thinking, ends up making you think more. I had to read this book for a summer reading assignment and personally it seemed a little over a ninth grader’s head and reading ability. The book was unusual because some parts were slower then others, and some stories were more interesting. Someone who is interested in learning about the anatomy of the brain, and what it does would really enjoy this book. Someone who enjoys reading less non-fiction and more fantasy would not enjoy a book like this. All in all this book is for a more complex mature realistic audience.
tanTC More than 1 year ago
People always wonder how someone is able to make difficult decisions in desperate times. For example how does someone make that life of death decision to go back into the burning towers on 9-11, how does a soldier that could save his own life jump on a live grenade to save three of his follow country men. This book gives examples similar to these and explains why someone would lay there life on the line and make the ultimate sacrifice for others. I have never read a psychology book before but after reading this one I would be open to reading others like this. How We Decide is a nonfiction psychology book that explains how the everyday humans living mediocre lives suddenly can make decision that will save the lives of others. This book is for mature audience that is able to grasp the decision making process that this book explains. This book tells many personal stories about pilots, solders, firefighters, and animals and the decisions that are made by these people and animals. The way Jonah Lehrer tells the personal stories of the people in his book makes you think about how you make decisions every day. The title explains what the book is about by the cover saying How we Decide, the cover relates to the book by the three flavors of ice cream being on the front cover. The human brain makes many decisions everyday mainly decisions like what to wear, what’s for dinner, or what movie to see. The process for making decisions is all the same and if you are interested in learning more about the brains decision making process then I recommended this book.
mary enger More than 1 year ago
When I first looked at How We Decide I was intrigued by the cover. Although the illustration on the cover is simple, I thought it fit perfectly for the book. How We Decide is a nonfiction book about psychology and neurology. I automatically knew what the book was about, but I was excited to learn more. On the cover there is a quote that says “A readily engaging literate and well researched glimpse into the great mystery of how we make up our minds”. I found this fascinating. Although I found that the book was entertaining, the main purpose is to explain how the brain works and processes decisions. Despite the fact that there aren’t any particular characters in How We Decide, there are nonfiction stories about different people and animals. I found it easy to relate to many people in the story, because a good portion of them are just normal people with normal lives. In my opinion the main point of How We Decide is to describe the brain and how it works even though the examples used are meant to be entertaining. I found How We Decide easy to read because the print is the perfect size. I also like Jonah Lehrer’s writing style because I understood most of the context he used. Although I’m usually not a fan of nonfiction books I found How We Decide was interesting, and made me reconsider how the brain works. Personally, I enjoyed reading this book because I found it held my attention and I learned so many new things about the brain that I didn’t even know existed. I had to read How We Decide as an assignment for summer reading not by choice but I’m glad I did because of all of the information I have learned. Although I did enjoy reading this book I think it would be more appealing for people in college or adults. Before reading this book I was not aware of all the small decisions we are making daily without realizing all of the details that are going on in our brains. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in nonfiction, neurology or psychology.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Until I read How We Decide, I never knew how much our brains worked in thought processes. This is one of the great books written by Jonah Lehrer, a graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes Scholar. This is a psychology based book which is intended for an audience of young adults to adults. This novel was written to give average humans, who do not have scientific knowledge about the brain, a way to learn and explore the mind. In my opinion, the title is a good choice because the entire book discusses how decisions are constantly being made by our brains. The picture of three ice cream cones with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry is the perfect choice for the cover. It catches your eye and immediately sends your brain into making choices. There are not any main characters in the book, but it is full of stories in each chapter. The main idea of the book is to explain how our brains work when making decisions. The writing style of the book is very straight to the point facts, which leads to short choppy sentences. In my opinion, this is a great book for anyone that is into phycology or non fiction science. As a reader that doesn’t care too much for these subjects, it was a hard read for me. If it wasn’t for the exciting, fast thinking heroes in the stories, I would have been lost and not interested in the novel.
LauraKatherine More than 1 year ago
Jonah Lehrer is the author of How We Decide. He's won several prizes for his informative writing. The genre for this book is nonfiction. This nonfiction work is based on psychology and neurology. I would suggest that the audience of this book be of the age 18 or older. This book is meant to enlighten you on how and why you decide. It is a nice size book with good font, so it is easy and enjoyable for most to read. In this book the author doesn't use characters. Instead he tells stories, which are really neat, to explain the decision making process. Throughout the story the author's word structure is short and to the point. He doesn't go into useless rambling details. The main idea in the book us to teach how your brain works on a day to day basis and why you make the choices you do. Also it helps you learn to make better and wiser decisions. The book touches on subjects such as rational decisions, emotional decisions, and morality. If you enjoy learning through reading, this book is for you. In one section of the book it tells how two pilots stuck in a crashing plane and had to think quickly on how to save not only their lives, but the other people on the plane's lives also. Another story the author mentions is about a chimpanzee who made a moral decision that it would rather hurt itself than see another chimpanzee that was a stranger hurting. Some parts of this book may tend to get boring and make the reader confused, but the stories that are told through the book keep you interested. Overall they make the book worth while. After reading How We Decide readers will feel a sense of intelligence because they will now have a sense of understanding on how the brain operates.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer is a non-fiction book that talks about how a person’s brain decides. This book is intended for people 15 and up, because it can really help you decide difficult decisions in life. The purpose of the book is to teach and inform people what consequences can result from their choices. The title is really good; it is straight to the point of the book. The cover of the book is really interesting because is nice and it gives 3 types of ice cream. The person has to decide which type of ice cream likes best and the book is about decision making. The book is the right size and it is really easy to read the letters. The book has many scientific terms that are difficult to understand but the author explains the meanings. The main ideas of the book are about how we think, what we think and the consequences of our actions. The book includes many different stories; as a result there are many characters but all of them are unique and incredible. The main key idea of the book is to teach a person’s brain to make important decisions in life. There was one quote that caught my attention. The quote is: A lie told well is just as good as the truth. The book includes many stories about people’s life. The reader would be surprised while reading this book. It is incredible how all of the characters took decisions and made them to consequences and actions that changed their lives. For me the book was great and it was easy to read. I really enjoyed reading all the stories of the book. Thanks to this book I know how my brain works and I also learned how to take important decisions and put them into my life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I’ve always thought science was kind of boring, but after reading this book, it seems kind of interesting. How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer is written more for an older audience and to help inform how our brains work. The title fits the book perfectly because it talks about how we decide on different things. In the book, Jonah Lehrer tells different stories about how people use there brains in tough situations. Jonah likes to use a lot of scientific facts in his books. He teaches you how to make better decisions by knowing how your brain works. “But the best decision makers don’t despair. Instead they become students or error, determined to learn from what went wrong.” I think this quote means that even if you make a bad decision, you can learn from it and not make it again. If you like science or are curious about your brain, you will love this book. It gives many examples of people who had to use there brain in life or death situations. I didn’t like the book that much, but I could see how you would like it if you are interested in that kind of stuff.
ReadingInAlabama More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the personal stories, but the science was a little over my head.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago