Op-ed piece on swimming pools vs. guns as the most dangerous weapon

What determines how much we fear something? Is it based on the actual risks posed? Or do our emotions lead us to fear the wrong things and weigh risks differently than we should?

Interesting piece comparing the relative risks of swimming pools and guns and how much we fear each.


4th Down Bot. Live analysis of every N.F.L. fourth-down decision

4th Down Bot copyThis is a clever program that does an analysis of every 4th down play in every professional football game. It determines based on mathematical expected value whether teams should go for it, punt, or kick a field goal. It breaks down the math behind its decision making. What’s interesting is how often the mathematical decisions are not the ones followed by the people on the field. Who is right in a case like this? What happens when the “common sense” approach is different from the mathematically “true” approach?


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.