Book: How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

“The first book to use the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience to help us make the best decisions

Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we “blink” and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind’s black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they’re discovering that this is not how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason—and the precise mix depends on the situation. When buying a house, for example, it’s best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we’re picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.” -Amazon

Book: Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

“Since Descartes famously proclaimed, “I think, therefore I am,” science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person’s true being. Even modern neuroscience has tended, until recently, to concentrate on the cognitive aspects of brain function, disregarding emotions. This attitude began to change with the publication of Descartes’ Error in 1995. Antonio Damasio—”one of the world’s leading neurologists” (The New York Times)—challenged traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this wondrously engaging book, Damasio takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior.” -Amazon

How do we decide? Reason vs Emotion

There is an age old debate about the roles of emotion and reason in our decision making. Are decision made free from emotion better? Are they possible? The conventional views have been to try to disregard emotion when making decisions but there is interesting research that disputes these ideas. Below are some interesting articles discussing these issues.

See a contrasting view by checking out Plato’s allegory of the chariot.

Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is one of my favorite nonfiction books of all time. A work of tremendous scope and implications. Kahneman is a genius in the field of economics and psychology.

From the amazon description of the book:

“Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow is destined to be a classic.”

Lyndon B Johnson’s famous “Daisy Ad”

One of the most famous and controversial political ads in American history, LBJ’s “Daisy Ad” was a great example of an appeal to emotion argument. Rather than present a reasoned argument or discuss facts, the ad takes one of the scariest prospects of the time, or any time, nuclear war, and tries to capitalize on people’s emotions by saying that a vote for the other guy would lead to nuclear war. The ad was only aired once but had a huge impact.