I finished Jonah Lehrer’s book, How We Decide, last week. In it, Lehrer describes his view on, well, how we decide things. It’s basically the same concept that was presented in Gerd Gigerenzer’s Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. In fact, some of the same research is used as examples across the three books. In Lehrer’s book I found something a little different though. He proposes that the decision isn’t one of deciding rationally or emotionally. He offers that it’s a matter of whether to decide with the conscious or the unconscious parts of our brain. He argues that the emotion we feel about a decision is the result of our subconscious brain weighing all the variables and summarizing them as a feeling for our conscious brain to use.
I like that view. Having a bad feeling (or a good one) about something should not be overlooked. There is good reason for your having that feeling. The challenge is to know when that feeling is the correct way to go. And Lehrer helps with that by explaining that we most often use that feeling in the wrong situations which leads to bad choices which leads us to mistrust our gut when we should be listening to it. He argues that our real challenge is to remember to think about how we’re thinking and then to decide whether it’s better to go with our gut or to let our big prefrontal cortex do the work instead.
I read Gigerenzer’s and Gladwell’s books first, and I almost passed on Lehrer’s. I’m glad I took the time to read it. It’s helped me to start thinking more about how I’m thinking. Time will tell if the decisions get any better.