Book Review: How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

This was a first time I read a book from a person who has been accused of plagiarism and making up facts. I was over midway when I found out this detail, and I battled with myself what to think and do. I searched for if this particular book from Jonah Lehrer was filled with fantasy. I didn’t find a confirmation for one way or another. They pulled this book out of print that much I know. I continued reading, the completionist in me refused to stop.

What do I think? Some research quoted in the book was already familiar. So, I know that most of the arguments hold true or at least are based on real studies. The other half worries me, the studies I don’t know. Studies that were compelling and I’m sure I internalized some of their wisdom, like: “Once people become socially isolated, they stop simulating feelings of other people. Their moral intuitions are never turned on, as a result, inner Machiavelli takes over. And the sense of sympathy is squashed by selfishness.”

The book argued well how emotions and intuition guide us. That making rational doesn’t have to come from complex calculations and time-consuming thinking, that sometimes that might lead us astray. If there is something to take from the book, it is the value of our emotions and our connection to others (+interaction). Which makes me worry about the damage the online world can do to us. Not only that but the value we put on to the quantitative measurements of success and goodness. Then we go and organize our societies with such principles, and we are left with what? I sometimes feel like the entire world is suffering from empathy deficiency. That we are unwilling to connect with others in other than a superficial level. And I think this is one of the rudimentary problems we face nowadays. What then when we and our children can’t recognize emotions if they are not shown in emojis?

But back to the book. I found it well written despite all. I loved the fact it was filled with studies and the argument was argued through them. But the heavy cloud of accusations, his mistakes and wrongdoings with his later books devalues this one as well. It is sad that someone will stoop to such a level of professionalism and for what? If you know, if this book has been proven to contain plagiarism, morphed facts, and pure fantasy, please inform me. I would appreciate that and a lot.

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