Decision Making

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In chapter 8 of Jonah Lehrer’s The Decisive Moment, the author illustrates how Michael Binger, a professional poker player makes his decisions. Lehrer asserts that “the only thing that separates the experts from the amateurs is the quality of their decisions”(pg210,p1). “The Art of Cards”(pg219,p2) examines the techniques used by Binger and how poker players “master the game”(pg219,p3) and explains how “The Power of Unconscious Thought”(pg221,p4) can lead to better decision making. “Using Both Sides of the Brain”(pg227,p2) sketches out a taxonomy of decision making, applying the knowledge of the brain to the real world(pg232,p3).

Poker is a statistical game that involves mathematical decisions made by the rational part of our brains, but “the act of betting is what makes poker so infinitely complicated” (pg215,p2.l1). When the statistical answer is unclear, “a poker player is forced to make a decision using the emotional brain” (pg220,p4,l2). Binger is a great player because he possesses the mathematical skills poker requires, but more importantly he has the ability to “make strong and accurate reads” (pg221,p1,l1) without knowing what signals his emotional brain is picking up on. He must “constantly use one brain system to improve the performance of the other.” (pg229,p1,l16)

Ap Dijksterhuis’ study of the power of unconscious thought concludes that the prefrontal cortex is confused by too much information. “Any problem with more than four distinct variables will overwhelm the rational brain” (pg233,p1,l4). Complex problems, such as buying a house or car, are best solved by gathering information and then letting our subconscious digest it over time. This requires the processing powers of the emotional brain. Whatever your intuition then tells you to do is probably going to be the best choice (pg226,p2,l10). Our conscious minds work best where the unconscious fails. For example, when Binger lost a big pile of chips he used his logic to stop loss-aversion...
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