Jonah Lehrer was puzzling over which cereal to buy at the grocery store when the idea behind his newest book came to him. He asked himself the question: Do I want Cheerios or Fruit Loops? He wondered at how he could ever make this decision? Literally, he started to wonder what processes were happening in his brain to make this and any decision possible.
This simple question over cereal resulted in hours of research and deep insight into how the human brain makes decisions. Lehrer introduces the classical idea that humans are rational creatures that use reason to keep emotions in check. Yet Lehrer challenges this viewpoint by telling true stories that reflect the changes in neuroscience thought about decision making over time. We learn how important emotions are to making decisions when we hear about a man who lost the ability to feel emotions and cannot even pick a restaurant for dinner. Or how the release of dopamine, or lack thereof, can cause a fatal missile strike. Lehrer uses a multitude of anecdotes to show how interrelated emotions and reason are in making decisions.
I have read Lehrer’s first book, Proust was a Neuroscientist, and loved how he melds science with real life stories in an understandable and relatable fashion. If possible I like this book even more. We all make hundreds of thousands decisions each day, so everyone can relate to Lehrer’s material. The stories will make you gasp in amazement and the science will make you ponder over your decisions more carefully.