How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

Throughout History it is believed that a person who doesn't involve emotions in decision making process tend to make better decisions. However, recent studies showed that emotions indeed play vital role in decision making process. How We Decide is a book about decision making process and How we can make better decisions by conditioning our brain. This book is written on the premise that decision making is amalgamation of art and science. A good decision maker is not the one who makes decision based on pure logic but the one who uses right combination of feelings(emotions) and thinking(logic). How we decide also analysis different parts of brain and what respective role they play in our thought process. 

For Centuries Brain has always been a mystery. It is no less than a wonder that how this 3 pound of flesh inside our skull is responsible for all the decisions ranging from simple to the most complex one can imagine.

Brain believes in continuous learning process and tend to learn from the mistakes which we make. When we try harder and learn from our mistakes, then only we can manage to make better decisions. Practice also plays a very important role in our quality of decisions. The more we practice, the more patterns(experiences) we spawn in our brain. However, it is the quality of practice rather than quantity which matter most. In crux It means we should analyze the patterns(experience), particularly mistakes and then incorporate those lessons in our future decision making. This way we can enrich our thought process and can make better decisions.

Brain works in similar patter like division of labour where each part of brain given certain responsibilities and they work in accordance with that. Lets look at different brain sections which affects the decision making process.

Among them OFC (Orbito Frontal Cortex) which is situated below the eyes is responsible for "emotions" into the decision making process. If this part of brain is defective or get damaged then a person cant comprehend the emotions and we lose access to wealth of opinion that we normally rely on. Along with Amygdala, OFC regulates our feelings and emotions

NACC (Nucleus Accumbens) along with Dopamine neurons generates pleasurable feeling. On the other hand Insulas generates painful and negative feeling. It is the combination of Insula and NACC which determines our decisions. If Insula is more activated then we tend to avoid that thing and if NACC is more activated and release more Dopamine then we tend to have pleasurable experience.

Apart from it, PreFrontal Cortex is part of brain which is responsible for rational and logical thinking. Prefrontal Cortex determines the ability to withstand emotional urges. It allows the person to reject first impressions which are often based in impulsive decisions. It helps in making informed and rational decisions by analyzing through process rather than emotional shortcuts which are impulsive and often wrong.

Author suggests few strategies which can help us in making better decisions. It works like this-

If the situation is complex and involves lots of choices and options then use your conscious mind to acquire all the information you need for making a decision. But don't try to analyse the information with your conscious mind (rational thinking). Instead distract yourself by engaging yourself in something else or take a break while your unconscious mind digest it. Whatever your intuition or instinct then tells you is most certainly going to be the best decision or choice.

On the other hand If the decision is trivial or doesn't involve much choices and complexity then it can be handled through logic and taking all variable (options) into account.

The gist is when the situation is complex and involve lot of choices (variables),  its better not to think  much about it and go by your instinct. And If the situation is simple and doesn't involve much choices then its better to make informed decision rather than rely on instinct (emotions).

Well it does sound bizarre But let me assure its worth give a try.

Another thing which particularly grabbed my attention is concept of "Loss Aversion". It is a mental defect which we all suffer from. We get so determined to avoid any option associated with loss that we are willing to risk lose everything. The thought of loss can be really dangerous and can trigger a dangerous set of feelings where you find yourself taking risk your probably shouldn't take. At such times it is always better to think or take a break before making a decision.

At last Jonah Lehrer word of advice, The best way to make sure that you are using your brain properly is to study your brain at work, to listen to the arguments inside your head. whether these arguments are repulsive or antagonistic to what you believe. still let them have a say. Then only you can make a better and informed decision.

I highly recommend this book to all who want to know how conditioning of brain can help them in making better decisions.