A lively, surprising tour of our mental glitches and how they arise.
With its trillions of connections, the human brain is more beautiful and complex than anything we could ever build, but it’s far from perfect: our memory is unreliable; we can’t multiply large sums in our heads; advertising manipulates our judgment; we tend to distrust people who are different from us; supernatural beliefs and superstitions are hard to shake; we prefer instant gratification to long-term gain; and what we presume to be rational decisions are often anything but. Drawing on striking examples and fascinating studies, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano illuminates the causes and consequences of these “bugs” in terms of the brain’s innermost workings and their evolutionary purposes. He then goes one step further, examining how our brains function—and malfunction—in the digital, predator-free, information-saturated, special-effects-addled world that we have built for ourselves. Along the way, Brain Bugs gives us the tools to hone our cognitive strengths while recognizing our inherent weaknesses.
©2011 Dean Buonomano (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Intriguing take on behavioral economics, marketing, and human foibles.” (Kirkus Reviews)
If you have no scientific background and are unfamiliar with the quirks of cognitive biases, then this book can give you a good introduction to the topic. The author gives a brief, superficial tour of many areas of cognitive study, but doesn't explore any of them enough to satisfy a reader who has any familiarity with the subject. If you are familiar with the terms "neuron", "bias" and "conditioning" you will probably want a different book.
He discusses our fear bias, various heuristics and some basic evolutionary biology. His style is scatter shot and he seems to wander from topic to topic without much structure. More annoyingly, he gets halfway through certain chapters and says "maybe this isn't really a bug because it mostly works OK."
Other books do a better job discussing the topics touched on in this book. For an evolutionary biology perspective try "The Accidental Mind," for a cognitive psychology point of view read "How We Decide" or "The Blank Slate", for a behavioral perspective "Mistakes Were Made", for an in depth discussion of fear "The Science of Fear."
I would recommend this to someone looking for a brief introduction to our brain's quirks, but the book will likely leave even the casual reader wanting more.
I saw and heard a couple interviews with this author which made the book sound interesting, but after listening, I can not recommend it. The only audience that might find it truly interesting is a first or second year college student considering psychology or neurology- it seems to read like a very general cliffs notes of past studies in these fields.
After slogging through the early chapters of studies, facts, and details, I expected to be rewarded with some practical examples of brain bugs in modern society and how to defeat them. Instead, all the book seemed to do was sum up with "the human brain hasn't evolved, so some tasks aren't easy, and, uh, that's that."
I've never been inspired to write a negative review of a book until now. I don't disagree with the author; I just feel like the book read like a wikipedia entry- there are some background facts and figures and there are a couple juicy ideas that some contributor started writing about, but then became bored and let them die on the page. The interviews with the author had me really excited to read the book, but he left the fun and excitement out of the actual text for some reason.
I love the material presented in this book; the details about how the brain works down to the level of neurons was fascinating. My only complaint is that the author sometimes got too political. For example: implying that supporting certain presidential candidates is considered a "brain bug". Even if I may happen to agree with you on those particular candidates, there is no need for that kind of stuff in a book like this. All it does is cheapen the otherwise very compelling arguments.
Ironically, for an author who seems to abhor religion, his political remarks make him sound downright preachy.
Still a worthwhile listen, but it could have been so much better.
The way Buonomano revealed the layers of human thought processes was fascinating. I was so surprised to find the myriad ways in which we are not the rational beings we would like to think we are. I am glad to be made aware of how often my emotional little lizard-brain takes control and runs roughshod over my rational frontal lobe processes. Being made aware of how I often make unaware decisions can only enhance my functioning as a critically-thinking, rational human being.
The narration by William Hughes was a bit disappointing--and at times it was downright ANNOYING! I'm not sure who is most to blame for the quality of the final recording: 1) Hughes, who mispronounces words often enough to grate the nerves badly and throw off the flow of the recording (pronouncing "amalgam" as "AM-uhl-GAM," rather than "Uh-MAL-guhm" and stating that our high-tech devices have "silicone" chips, rather than "silicon" chips. These were among some of the more egregious mispronunciations.)--OR--2) The people who edited this production, who must ALSO have been unaware of these mistakes and mispronunciations and their distracting nature.
While the voice of the narrator was pleasant enough, he should not be employed to narrate audiobooks on scientific topics again. I know that most audiobooks are narrated by trained actors, as they are normally best at capturing the feel, the emotional weight, of the pieces they are reading. This is not, however, a good fit for works of non-fiction--especially works regarding science. Generally speaking, most actors have little background in the hard sciences. Perhaps the producers of audiobooks on scientific subjects might seek out notable exceptions to this, such as Dr. Mayim Bialik, who is a neuroscientist, but who has worked as an actress since childhood. Certainly, she is a rare bird, but perhaps there are other happy mediums between trained actors and persons with backgrounds in science.
Buonomano shows us how the human brain, evolved in a world very different from the present, is maladapted in many ways to deal with modernity. It offers both a collective excuse -- normal human brains are all poor at remembering names -- and a call to educate ourselves on the internal sources of our irrational fears, foibles, and beliefs. He doesn't shrink from the big issues, politics and religion, and explains how our brains' shortcomings have shaped our society. I found the book fascinating -- one of those books that gives one a new and clearer lens on the world, and you really can't ask for more than that.
I was interested in the book, because the author was on NPR. After going through it, I was not too impressed. The book covered topics that have been discussed in other brain books and I felt that the author needed to do his research more thoroughly. In the last chapters, he talked too arrogantly about the topic of religion and people’s spirituality.
If you're interest in how the brain works, a better book would be: The Brain that Changes itself by Norman Doidge". That one, I would give 4+stars. That author is actually a MD talking about the brain.
No one that thinks could possibly enjoy this book.
Not sure. I'm sure I can find something fun though. You have a good selection. I just need to be more careful next time :-)
I was dumbfounded by the superficial,simplistic nature of this book. The mental gymnastics performed by the author to try and explain the functions of the brain from a naturalistic, evolutionary perspective was just embarassing for me. Sorry :( .... There were also derogatory remarks made towards the end regarding catholic dogma/belief. Not a good experience for me this one.
"Brain Bugs" is an excellent combination of interesting information and an easy and enjoyable reading style.
It is rare to find authors with such clear-headed ideas and with the ability to explain the ideas to the reader in a simultaneously efficient and understandable manner.
The narration perfectly suited the material.
John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
How poor for the author to let his political biases enter into this subject. Of course such is the liberal need to insert their views everywhere.
No never, once a biased author always one. I would avoid him in any way that he might communicate.
Narrator did fine with what he had to work with.
Delete the politics and of course the author had to make religious values be a "brain bug" in predictable left liberal ideology ways.
I wish there was a way to pre-identify such political writings being inserted into such books. Maybe I need to take the time to read more reviews that might do that.
The author has clearly done a lot of research in this field and presents a coherent and thorough treatise. It took me a long time to put together almost 9 hours of listening time, though, and for me it started to drag a little toward the end. The author strays a little from relating facts to expressing speculative personal opinion, when he speculates that a tendency toward embracing spiritual beliefs may also be the consequence of a brain bug. (The truly devout may find that part of the book a bit offensive.)
Overall, though, I think this book is a worthwhile read. Take notes, if you want to use his advice. There is just too much info here to hold it all in your head and consolidate it.
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