What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
By David Disalvo
(Prometheus Books, Paperback, 9781616144838, 309pp.)
Publication Date: November 22, 2011
Why do we routinely choose options that don’t meet our short-term needs and undermine our long-term goals? Why do we willingly expose ourselves to temptations that undercut our hard-fought progress to overcome addictions? Why are we prone to assigning meaning to statistically common coincidences? Why do we insist we’re right even when evidence contradicts us? This book reveals a remarkable paradox: what your brain wants is frequently not what your brain needs. In fact, much of what makes our brains "happy" leads to errors, biases, and distortions, which make getting out of our own way extremely difficult. The author's search includes forays into evolutionary and social psychology, cognitive science, neurology, and even marketing and economics—as well as interviews with many of the top thinkers in psychology and neuroscience today. From this research-based platform, DiSalvo draws out insights that we can use to identify our brains’ foibles and turn our awareness into edifying action. Ultimately, he argues, the research does not serve up ready-made answers, but provides us with actionable clues for overcoming the plight of our advanced brains and, consequently, living more fulfilled lives.
David DiSalvo (Atlanta, GA) is a science, technology, and culture writer whose work appears in Scientific American Mind, Psychology Today, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Mental Floss, and other publications, and he is the writer behind the well-regarded science blogs Neuronarrative and Neuropsyched.
"DiSalvo offers ‘science-help’ (as opposed to self-help) by detailing the mental shortcuts our minds like to take but that don’t always serve us well, with the assumption that understanding brain function helps us fight its stubborn behavior."
"This book is the Swiss Army knife of psychology and neuroscience research—handy, practical, and very, very useful. It boils down the latest findings into simple, easy-to-understand lessons you can apply to your daily life."
-Joseph T. Hallinan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Why We Make Mistakes
"A five-star intellectual smorgasbord of the latest speculations on what makes us tick."
Robert Burton, MD, Author of On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not
"This book will make your brain happy—in a good way. With engaging prose and compelling stories, DiSalvo provides a fast-paced overview of mental shortcuts and foibles that make us happy in the short term, often to our long-term detriment."
-Daniel Simons, Author of The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
"DiSalvo takes us on mind trips to the frontiers of brain and behavior research—and, being a superb guide, shows us how each development is useful, exciting, and inspired by wonder."
-Jena Pincott, Author of Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes? Bodies, Brains, and Behavior: The Science behind Love, Sex, and Attraction
"A well-researched and effectively argued guide to uncovering the reasons why we so often think and act in ways that undermine our best interests, and it’s also full of knowledge about why humans manipulate each other. If you want to know more about why you do what you do, and how to avoid becoming the victim of someone else’s manipulation tactics, I encourage you to read this book."
-Philip Zimbardo, PhD, Author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil and past president of the American Psychological Association