How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer


This is the first book I read on the Kindle Fire I got for Christmas. I have read a number of books in the genre where writers try to distill recent psychological research for the layperson. This is the best one I have read, perhaps because of the unifying theme – making decisions. Not something we can really avoid, we often are aware of it like we are aware of our breathing. I tend to only be aware of my breathing when I am working to breathe, and I tend to only be aware I am making decisions when they are hard. But the book demonstrates that we often make it harder on ourselves then we need to because we fail to pay attention to the task of matching how we decide with what we are deciding. For example, and this will sound likely counterintuitive to many, simple decisions are best made with the intellect or reason and complex decision are better made with the gut or emotion.

As a therapist, I was able to make use of what I learned in the book to help some of my clients immediately. Fit of approach is so important to success in therapy, and the fit of how you are thinking to what you are thinking about also correlates highly with success. One size fits all, like ‘positive thinking’ approaches, can really be a poison in so many situations.

As we go into this political season, and watch how people with different viewpoints seem to be excellent at dodging facts that put their candidates in a negative light, I am reminded of this line from Lehrer – Self-delusion apparently feels really good.  Parts of the brain that cause us to feel pleasure become VERY active when we delude ourselves. Lehrer advises us to be in contant dialog with our feelings and you will understand how this can help you. Having a conversation with yourself about how you feel  while you ‘get off’ on your self-delusion tends to burst your bubble and help you avoid errors.  

 I took notes on this book and I will continue to study it. It is a fun read too. I learned about it from Todd Camp in a Linkedin discussion about negotiation.

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