How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

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Summary
  1. Very interesting book that describes the science behind how people make decisions and how you can improve your decision making by using both the emotional and rational parts of your brain. Lehrer uses a diverse array of examples from many different fields which helps make this book more relatable and actionable.

Key Takeaways

  1. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in history and his decision making is what sets him apart. He does not have time to think about which receiver he wants to throw the ball to but relies on his feelings when he scans the field – he either gets a good feeling and throws it or a fearful feeling and keeps looking
  2. Lehrer describes a story about a pilot who was in an unimaginable situation when all his hydraulics broke and he was forced to fly the plane manually and with only one engine. By just using his feelings and gut instincts he was able to safely land the plane and save everyone onboard. When this same situation was later run in a simulator, not one person was able to land successfully.
  3.  Be weary of over thinking decisions – avoid paralysis by analysis.
  4. Lehrer argues that when making big decisions, such as buying a car or a house, one should rely on one’s emotional brain (gut instincts) since chances are that you have already invested a lot of time and energy into researching these types of decisions. However, small decisions that we make on a daily basis can be aided by our rational brain
  5. Another great example is of a Stanford particle physicist who becomes one of the best poker players in the world. He continually tries to determine what he did wrong, what could he have done better, instead of looking what he did well
  6. The rational brain has been around a couple hundred thousand years whereas the emotional brain has been around for hundreds of millions of years. I think this is something to keep in mind when making certain decisions. Trust your gut, what your instincts are telling you more often.
  7. From the perspective of the brain, new ideas are merely several old thoughts that occur at the exact same time.”
  8. “Reason without emotion is impotent.”
  9. “Tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. Only then can you tell me what you think. Always keep these three things separate.” (Colin Powell)
  10. “An expert is someone who has made every mistake in a very narrow field.”

What I got out of it

  1. I think this book does a good job of handling a lot of complex topics and making it engaging and easy to read. The main point I got out of this was to be aware of using both the emotional and rational parts of your brain when making decisions but knowing which decisions require more of one area. When deciding on things you care the most about, go with your emotions, When making mundane, every day decisions, use your rationality

Buy How We Decide

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