Reading Room

“Life is the sum of all your choices.” Albert Camus

How We DecideHow We Decide
by Johan Lehrer | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jonah Lehrer is a bit of a wunderkind. A graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes Scholar, Lehrer has, at the ripe old age of 27, published not one but two well received books. I have yet to read his first book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist but I am going to add it to my list now that I have read his second book, How We Decide.

Lehrer also writes a blog for Wired Magazine — Frontal Cortex — and is a regular contributor to Radiolab –to which I am utterly and shamelessly addicted.

Lehrer fills the pages of this book with riveting narratives which detail second-to-second circumstances that require correct decision making, including life or death decisions. An airline crew has to land a plane having lost all navigational control. A Navy radar technician has to decide whether a radar blip is an enemy missile or a friendly aircraft. Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ quarterback, has less than four seconds to identify an open receiver and pass the ball before the pocket collapses (a life or death decision for many NE Patriots fans). Through these moment-by-moment exchanges, Lehrer explains how people manage to make good decisions.

I find all of this work extraordinarily fascinating and helpful as I continue my own work to help people to use data and develop decision support systems to improve our healthcare systems. And I loved this book because it was both fun and informative, an absolute pleasure to read.

If nothing else, take a bit of time to hear Lehrer discuss this work on Radiolab — I’m confident you’ll be charmed.

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