Book Review: How We Decide

I have been increasingly reading about neuroscience as it applies to communication generally and how the brain processes information and makes decisions on that information, specifically.

It is important to understand why people, against all evidence to the contrary, persist in believing some thing that is demonstrably wrong: That President Obama is not a citizen, for example.

How does the veteran quarterback just know that a receiver is open while the rookie will throw the ball into a crowd of defenders even when he sees his receiver is triple-covered? Under the pressure of absolute hydraulic failure and the fear of imminent death, how does a pilot arrive at a creative solution that saves most of the lives on his plane? How do world champion poker players know when to hold them and know when to fold them? Why do we sometimes choke under pressure or are paralyzed by too many options?

It is these questions that Jonah Lehrer dissects and explains how the brain decides; when it uses reason to arrive at the right decision and when it is better served by relying on intuition and emotion. Understanding how people make decisions in a given situation, and what role the brain plays and how it works during those situations, can only help communications professionals be more successful communicators.

Most importantly, How We Decide will help the reader understand their own thought process and the importance of thinking about how we think in order to make better decisions.

Lehrer does a great job at explaining neuroscience to the layperson using plain English and illustrative examples. Here’s an interview he did with NPR’s Fresh Air program in January, 2010. The following video from features an hour long interview with the author:

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