One of the “trilogy” books related to the neurophysiology of brain that I’ve read in the last year or so, the other two are “What’s going on in there?” about baby’s brain development, and “Mind of Market” by Michael Shermer. One of these days I’ll write about them.

I think these are indeed related as they show different aspects of how and why our brain is what it is in terms of evolution and development, which is exactly what defines a human. Shermer covers more on evolution, the baby book on development, and Kluge a combination of both.

A couple notable quotes:

The machinery of language and deliberative reason has led to enormous cultural and technological advances, but our brain, which developed over a billion years of pre-hominid ancestry, hasn’t caught up. The bulk of our genetic material evolved before there was language, before there was explicit reasoning, and before creatures like us even existed. …

Our memory, contextually driven as it is, is ill suited to many of the demands of modern life, and our self-control systems are almost hopelessly split. Out ancestral mechanisms were shaped in a different world, and our more modern deliberative mechanisms can’t shake the influence of that past.

The author’s advice for dealing with the limits of our brain:

  1. Whenever possible, consider alternative hypotheses.
  2. Reframe the question.
  3. Always remember that correlation does not entail causation.
  4. Never forget the size of your sample.
  5. Anticipate your own impulsivity and (try to) pre-commit (to avoid impulsivity).
  6. Don’t just set goals. Make contingency plans.
  7. Whenever possible, don’t make important decisions when you are tired or have other things on your mind.
  8. Always weigh benefits against costs.
  9. Imagine that your decisions may be spot-checked.
  10. Distance yourself.
  11. Beware the vivid, the personal, and the anecdotal.
  12. Pick your spots. (Make a decision, don’t’ procrastinate forever)
  13. Try to be rational.