What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why you Should Do the Opposite

David Di Salvo, Author
David DiSalvo. Prometheus, $19 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61614-483-8
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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Science writer DiSalvo analyzes the relationship between human consciousness and our brains, challenging the notion we should make important decisions with our brains before conscious thought has a chance to weigh in. As he argues: "Our brains are prediction and pattern detection machines that desire stability, clarity, and consistency—which is terrific, except when it's not." Our brains evolved to help us survive in less complex situations where rapid decision making was often a matter of life and death. We like to feel that we're in a charge of a situation, and dislike uncertainty. DiSalvo provides many examples to bolster his argument that it's important to train ourselves not to respond too quickly to our impulses—jumping to unwarranted conclusions, failing to consider the long-term ramifications of our actions, and overestimating our ability to control our impulses, from overeating to addiction. But, he believes, the final decision remains with us, even though "wrestling with the stubborn tendencies of the happy brain is at times frustrating, exhausting, and even infuriating," if we're to live meaningful lives. This lively presentation of the latest in cognitive science convincingly debunks what DiSalvo calls "self-help snake oil." (Nov.)
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