Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review-How We Decide

We are all aware of the game show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth grader; well there should be a game show called, Are You Smarter Than a Quarterback. Not only am I not smarter than a fifth grader on a regular basis, but after reading this book I took the Wonderlic intelligence test (test players on their decision making skills on math and logic problems), it was blatantly determined that I am not smart enough to be a quarterback, and I definitely do not have the skills (which I already knew). This book takes everyday scenarios that the normal individual takes for granted and exploits the problems that can arise in the brain, because we do not realize how much the interworking on our brains impacts our actions and behaviors. Here are some of my favorite exerts/topics from the book with my commentary.

  • Who would of thought that a 4-year olds ability to wait to eat a marshmallow would predict how that child would act in high school and their chances of developing ADHD. I bet you will never look at a bag of marshmallows the same ever again.
  • Mirror neurons. And no these small cluster of cells do not spend all day asking “mirror mirror on the wall, who are the fairest cells of all.” But rather these cells are found in autistic individuals.
  • I will never leave home without my prefrontal cortex, and you shouldn’t either. After reading this book, I want to wear a helmet 24/7 in order to protect my prefrontal cortex; because damage to this region of the brain makes for entertaining and thought provoking stories for readers, but for the person having to live with a damaged prefrontal cortex, they have nothing but my deepest sympathies.
  • My skin was crawling while I read the John Wayne Gacy chapter. He was a serial killer and rapist who assaulted and murdered approximately 40 teenager boys. This chapter of the book focused on psychopaths and how their brains work. Psychopaths can beat lie detectors. Note to self: Never play poker with a psychopath because I wouldn’t be able to tell when he/she is bluffing, especially since I lie detector cannot tell when they are bluffing. The book indicates that neuroscientists are beginning to identify the specific deficits that define the psychopathic brain. 
  • There are more slot machines in the United States than ATM machines
  • The average household owes more than $9000 in credit card debt, and the average number of credit cards per person is 8.5. This definitely makes me feel responsible-I have $0 in credit card debt and I only possess 2 credit cards. Although, when I was in undergrad, I had a total of 10 credit cards at one time. I had 3 main cards, and then the other 7 were from department stores (e.g. Victoria Secret and The Buckle). Not that I am justifying my decisions to possess that many credit cards, but it is nice to know that I wasn’t alone. Teenagers are becoming increasingly powerful consumers. I would be in a department store, for example The Buckle, and I would be ready to pay and the cashier would ask, “If you apply for our credit card today you can save 10% on your total purchase.” When I go shopping, I have the mindset that I don’t spend money, but rather I save money. Therefore, when the cashier mentions this deal I just hear “CHA-CHING” in my head. However, the dark secret this Buckle credit card is keeping is that it charges 24% interest; now my mind is going  “WAH WAH.” Additionally, if the personal debt isn’t a scary story amongst itself; in 2006, consumers spent more than 17 billion dollars in penalty fees alone for credit cards…MIND=BLOWN!
You definitely need to read this book! I learned something new on every page. The author packs so much information in this book, some may think that it would be a textbook, and no one wants to read a textbook. However, Jonah Lehrer makes neuroscience intriguing and entertaining...for once learning is FUN!

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