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Jonah LehrerDescribe your latest project.
How We Decide is about what happens inside your brain when you make up your mind. It's about the new neuroscience of decision-making, and why knowing what your cortex is doing when you're picking out a breakfast cereal, or a mutual fund, or making some crucial life-or-death decision is so important. But the book isn't just a summary of recent research. I discuss some ingenious experiments in this book, but let's face it: the lab is a startlingly artificial place. And so, wherever possible, I tried to explore these scientific ideas in the context of the real world. Instead of just writing about hyperbolic discounting and the feebleness of the prefrontal cortex, I spent time with a debt counselor in the Bronx. When I became interested in the anatomy of insight — where do our good ideas come from? — I interviewed a pilot whose epiphany in the cockpit saved hundreds of lives. That's when you really begin to appreciate the power of this new science, when you can use its ideas to explain all sorts of important phenomena, from the risky behavior of teenagers to the amorality of psychopaths to the reason athletes choke under pressure.
John Dewey, the great American philosopher. If you can struggle through his prose, which can be unbelievably tedious, his ideas remain incredibly relevant and alive. I'd begin with Experience and Education.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
How do you relax?
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Why do you write?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust (I confess to skipping over a few of the lengthier digressions in the later volumes)
The Principles of Neural Science, edited by Eric Kandel, et. al.
Any book by John Dewey (I know, I know, what a hypocrite)
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
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Jonah Lehrer is editor-at-large for Seed magazine and the author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist (2007) and How We Decide (February 2009). A graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes Scholar, Lehrer has worked in the lab of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel and has written for the New Yorker, Wired, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and Nature, and writes a highly regarded blog, The Frontal Cortex. Lehrer also commentates for NPR's Radio Lab.