Brain Bugs by

Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives

There’s a deadly epidemic raging and you have the power to choose between two treatments, (1) in which 1/3rd patients of the patients will certainly survive and (2) in which 66.7 percent of the patients will certainly die. Which would you choose? The first one right? If you’re savvy, you’ll see that the two options were the same choice, just worded differently.; this is called `framing.’

Surveying all of my favorite cognitive psychology studies (including the concept of framing), Buonomano describes the evolutionary deficits that we have in the face of a complex, crazy modern world. With nods to Daniel Gilbert, Malcolm Gladwell, and Dan Ariely, the author reflects much of the fascinating studies that show us that we aren’t as evolutionarily spiffy as we may think. We change our mind from the way things are worded, we make ourselves happy if we’re stuck with something, and we buy underwear because Michael Jordan’s selling it.

Where this book fails is on religion and sports Why do we watch sports? It’s not irrational. Perhaps because of an aspect of the brain he wrote about earlier in the book (mirror neurons)? We feel like we’re actually making the play doing it when we’re just watching it (that’s why we reach our arms out when we watch a wide receiver lay out for a catch. Why do we believe in God? Because of the principle of causality that science is based on leads us naturally to believe in a first cause. Though we unnecessarily assign God to supernatural realm (and some people do other ridiculous things in the name of religion), that doesn’t mean all religion is irrational. What’s at stake here is spirit versus materialism. Buonomano–a strict scientific materialist–wants us only to agree that only that which can be proven by science is true, yet that statement itself cannot be proven by science. Surely the author is smart enough to understand that.

All in all, it’s a good book, but I would recommend the above authors before this one.

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