Sunday, November 20, 2016

Buonomano, Dean (2012): Brain Bugs - How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives

What is it about?

Basically the book describes and discusses the multitude of ways in which we human beings depart from rationality in our decision-making and behavior.

Thus, the book covers cognitive biases but also, and quite welcomely, discusses the current understanding about the evolutionary origins of such biases.

Was it good?

The book is unambiguously good; the thematical arrangement (e.g. memory, perception of time, fear, supernaturality) works well, the narrative has a nice interplay between "theory and practice" - i.e. principles of a phenonenon and examples of it at work - and teh book concludes with a nice section on how to avoid the biases unduly influencing our behvior to our detriment.

The main take-away for me?

I have read a number of books and articles on the subject already before and therefore was familiar with many of the phenomena discussed. However, I really gained a deeper understanding (I think) of them thanks to the evolutionary explanations put forth. In other words, I believe that I now see better a common thread running through a multitude of phenonema, instead of a list of interesting curiosities.

If one section was to be highlighted in particular, I would say that it was chapter 8 on supernatural beliefs; i.e. the rise and nature of religious beliefs.

Who should read the book?

As the book is about fundamental human qualities and their effects on our everyday decisions and behaviors, I think that basically everyone should read the book or any other treatment on the same subject matter. The book is very accessibly written and does not include excessive scientific terminology (except for some brain-related special vocabulary), and thus should be quite enjoyable to read for nearly anyone interested in cognitive biases.

The book on Brain bugs

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