Jonah Lehrer: How We Decide
Ever since the time of the ancient Greeks, we’ve assumed that humans are rational creatures. When we make a decision, we are supposed to consciously analyze the alternatives and carefully weigh the pros and cons. This simple idea underlies the philosophies of Plato and Descartes; it forms the foundation of modern economics; it drove decades of research in cognitive science. Over time, rationality came to define us. It was, simply put, what made us human. There’s only one problem with this assumption: it’s wrong. It’s not how the brain works. For the first time in human history, we can look inside our brain and see how we think. It turns out that we weren’t engineered to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment.
It was totally surreal being on the set of a show you watch every night. Like walking into your television or falling down a rabbit hole or something… Am I allowed to say that Stephen Colbert – the person, not the character – is the nicest guy? And that he gives every guest a gift card to DonorsChoose, which allows you to buy pencils and paper and books for individual teachers?