How We Decide Review

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To understand how decisions are made is a stepping stone to making better decisions; at least that is the position that Jonah Lehrer takes in his book, How We Decide. Lehrer takes the reader on a compelling journey through the interesting world of neuroscience. Through the examples obtained from case studies, interviews, lab results, and history books, Lehrer provides a road map to the inner workings of the brain. The book traverses the four layers of the brain to learn how, in particular, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex contribute to the decision making process. In the class Executive Decision Making, Dr. Forman introduces the challenges that decision makers are faced with in today’s complex business world. These challenges come in the form of having to process an exhaustive amount of data with managing the constraints and risks that are inherent with all business decisions. The decision makers in today’s business world must have the ability to compare the benefits of maintaining the status quo and objectively weighing alternatives to derive the components of the most effective course of action. In How We Decide we learn that managing trade-offs is a learned behavior that can be cultivated through training and coaching. The foundation of good decision making is found in the balance between the emotional functions of the amygdala and the rational operations of the prefrontal cortex. Throughout history it has been the thought that emotions were the achillles heal of good rational decision making. Experiments in neuroscience and studies of post-op patients with brain damage show us quite the opposite; in fact our emotions are essential to making good decisions. The underpinnings to our emotional responses, or intuition, are extremely complex. The brain is constantly reacting to new experiences. Lehrer makes this point by stating, “[dopamine] neurons incorporate new information, turning a feeling into a teachable moment.” (Lehrer, 41) When presented with a...
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