The Decisive Moment

Jonah Lehrer

The Decisive Moment

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 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 stocks and shares, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to lean on which part of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think. In The Decisive Moment, Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edge research by Daniel Kahneman, Colin Camerer and others, as well as the world’s most interesting ‘deciders’ – from airline pilots, world famous sportsmen and hedge fund investors to serial killers, politicians and poker players. He shows how the fluctuations of a few dopamine neurons saved a battleship during the Persian Gulf War, and how the fevered activity of a single brain region led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Lehrer’s 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? 4.0 out of 5 based on 3 reviews
The Decisive Moment

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Psychology & Psychiatry
Format Hardback
Pages 304
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication February 2009
ISBN 978-1847673138
Publisher Canongate
 

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 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 stocks and shares, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to lean on which part of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think. In The Decisive Moment, Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edge research by Daniel Kahneman, Colin Camerer and others, as well as the world’s most interesting ‘deciders’ – from airline pilots, world famous sportsmen and hedge fund investors to serial killers, politicians and poker players. He shows how the fluctuations of a few dopamine neurons saved a battleship during the Persian Gulf War, and how the fevered activity of a single brain region led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Lehrer’s 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?

Reviews

The Observer

David Smith

...a tour de force of limpid writing, well-marshalled anecdotes and conclusions that overthrow conventional wisdom... Lehrer nimbly demonstrates how "thinking too much" can cause sopranos to lose their mojo, golfers to "choke" at the final hole and shoppers to get misled by irrelevant variables when choosing strawberry jam... Lehrer claims that, above all, he wants us to think about thinking. It's an end he achieves magnificently.

01/03/2009

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The Daily Mail

Sam Leith

[An] engrossing book... It's a slight shame a bit more effort wasn't made to adapt the book for a British audience. Lehrer's opening story, about American football, is less exciting if you don't know the rules. But you generally get the picture pretty well. Lehrer's on similar territory to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and James Surowiecki's The Wisdom Of Crowds, but more than earns his place on the shelf alongside them.

04/03/2009

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The Guardian

Steven Poole

One of the main messages of Lehrer's book is that making decisions is not a purely rational affair but depends also on the emotions (which are the result, as he claims, of lots of unconscious information-processing done by the dopamine neurons). As usual, Lehrer overstates the novelty of his lesson ... Throughout his book, indeed, we find familiar wisdom dressed up in shiny new scientific vocabulary.

28/02/2009

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