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Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. ?A fascinating introduction? (Steven Pinker) to the science of decision-making One of the leading thinkers in the computational neuroscience revolution offers a brilliant new perspective on the mind's...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A very important book that has yet (unfortunately) to reach mass appeal.

This is quite an unassuming book at first blush. With all the other books out there that deal with human decision-making, this one is by far the most advanced. There are lots of pop-psychology books in this genre (Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking or How We Decide) but believe me when I say that this is hands down the winner. Montague is a top-notch neuroscientist, which means that he delves into the "meat" of the decision-making process; the other guys just look at the consequences. There are many things that Montague covers in this book - Turing's Computational Theory of Mind (CToM), Natural Selection/ Evolution, Reinforcement Learning, Neuroeconomics, Free Will and Philosophy of Mind - which to some reader's, may be overwhelming. However, in my view, it is well worth the effort to try and comprehend what Montague is proposing - a newer "Efficient Computational Theory of Mind (ECToM). His theory is a form of Physicalism, which simply means that what we regard as feelings and emotions are only physical states in the brain. And the brain is hardwired to find 'value' in these emotions; hence, it is possible for humans to disregard their instinct for survival in order to fulfill something that has a greater 'value' to that individual. Montague calls these 'values' that can override our need for survival "superpowers." This is a very interesting concept and helps explain irrational behaviors that people do, such as the cults that commit mass-suicide (Heaven's Gate, Order of the Solar Temple and Jonestown). This is a great book - I wore out my highlighter picking out my favorite passages. There are so many important concepts here that I can't even begin to write them all down. I highly recommend this book. Also, another couple of books that converge well with Montague's are De Marchi and Hamilton's book: You Are What You Choose: The Habits of Mind that Really Determine How We Make Decisions, Metzinger's book: The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self and Gazzaniga's book Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique.

software AI meets cognitive science

AWESOME BOOK! I saw a blurb in Sci American about emotional computing, searched and then luckily found this book. If you've done a little software or AI work, everything in this book makes sense. I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this book (none of which are wasted) and I thought it was very applicable to the computing field.

The Neuroscience of Choice: An Introduction

Introduction: This book is a fascinating introduction to the mechanisms behind the choices we make. I highly recommend it to people who are looking for a basic understanding of the neuroscience of choice, as we understand it currently. All the information you need is included and discussed, and the book is filled with interesting stories and illustrations that make the author's train of thought easy to follow. My few complaints fall into two categories: writing and content. On the writing side, the transitions between topics inside a chapter can be choppy, which makes it difficult to connect everything together. Also, his writing style tends to be a bit wordy. On the content side, the book skims over a lot of information I would have liked to know, such as what is happening at the cellular level when we feel regret or trust. However, the book makes no claim to be an end-all resource and does have a large bibliography to allow further reading. Each of the book's eight chapters cover several topics, but they relate to each other well and Dr. Montague (the author) does a good job tying them all together. For the purposes of a summary, I have divided the book into three parts: background, elements of choice (models, valuation, goals, etc.), and the big picture. Also, while this book covers a wide range of topics, I wanted to cover just a couple of the ones I found especially interesting to give potential readers an idea of what the book is like. Book Summary: The background chapters, one and two, build a framework to hang the rest of the book on. They introduce ideas such the differences between the hardware and software of a computation device, and principles of efficient computing. A computation device or "computer" here can refer to the electrical device most commonly associated with the word, or a brain. The middle chapters, three through seven, address the elements that combine to form our ability to choose. These include how we make models of our selves and others, how we use these to make predictions, and how we generate preference. Also covered is how the brain assigns value, sets goals, learns, and a theory of how the emotions of trust and regret work to influence choice. Chapter eight, the final chapter, is essentially a conclusion which talks about us as individuals in light of the information contained in the previous chapters. Biological computers: The book starts off with the story of Alan Turning, a mathematician who came up with the idea that any procedure can be represented by a sequence of elementary computations; this is called an algorithm. This is the beginning of the modern computer, which can be divided into two parts: hardware, the physical elements of the computer, and software, the programs that the computer runs. Humans have a biological computer made up of our brains (the hardware) together with our minds (the software). Dr. Montague says "Your mind is not equal to your brain and the interaction of its parts, but

Best book I've read in a year

Recipe for a must read: 4 cups Neuroscience 1 cup Psychology 1 cup Computer Science 1 tspn Genetics 1 dash Thermodynamics 1 pinch Evolution Mix liberally with strong insights backed up with references, and tied together with a great narrative voice. Truly a great book, if I could give it 6 stars I would. In the vein of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, but with better insights. I'm buying several copies for my friends.

Great book ... be aware - same book as "Why Choose This Book"

This is one of my favorite books. Unfortunately, it was not mentioned anywhere that this is the same book as "Why Choose This Book" before I purchased it. I guess this was not selling with the other name, or the title was badly chosen in terms of describing what the book was about. I was hoping that this book was going to be a refinement and elaboration of his ideas in "Why Choose This Book" instead of the same book.
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