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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 24, Issue 3

MIND Books Roundup: Decisions, Decisions

Three books guide us to better choices



GINES VALERA MARIN iStockphoto

We make decisions all day long, from mundane choices about what to eat for breakfast to life-changing ones such as whom to marry. In Decide: Better Ways of Making Better Decisions (Kogan Page, 2013), David Wethey, a decision-making expert, lays out guidelines to help people cope with the stream of daily choices and understand which tactics work and which do not. For instance, Wethey advocates factoring in the personalities involved in a situation as well as listening to your gut.

In 2009 almost 62,000 people in the U.S. got their tattoos removed, according to psychologist Chip Heath and his businessman brother Dan. In Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (Crown Business, 2013), the brothers discuss how our brain is a flawed decision-making tool, swayed by emotions and biases. They offer strategies to conquer these shortcomings based on their analysis of decision-making research. The authors suggest consulting a mental checklist, which includes exploring alternative points of view and recognizing uncertainty.

But what goes on in our head when we choose a job or friend? In The Mind within the Brain: How We Make Decisions and How Those Decisions Go Wrong (Oxford University Press, 2013), neuroscientist A. David Redish looks at the complex processes in the brain that prompt us to make certain selections, as well as the defects in this neural system that can lead us astray.

This article was originally published with the title "Books: Roundup."

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