Brain Bugs

  • by Dean Buonomano
  • Narrated by William Hughes
  • 8 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A lively, surprising tour of our mental glitches and how they arise.
With its trillions of connections, the human brain is more beautiful and complex than anything we could ever build, but it’s far from perfect: our memory is unreliable; we can’t multiply large sums in our heads; advertising manipulates our judgment; we tend to distrust people who are different from us; supernatural beliefs and superstitions are hard to shake; we prefer instant gratification to long-term gain; and what we presume to be rational decisions are often anything but. Drawing on striking examples and fascinating studies, neuroscientist Dean Buonomano illuminates the causes and consequences of these “bugs” in terms of the brain’s innermost workings and their evolutionary purposes. He then goes one step further, examining how our brains function—and malfunction—in the digital, predator-free, information-saturated, special-effects-addled world that we have built for ourselves. Along the way, Brain Bugs gives us the tools to hone our cognitive strengths while recognizing our inherent weaknesses.

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What the Critics Say

“Intriguing take on behavioral economics, marketing, and human foibles.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Superficial, but mostly correct

If you have no scientific background and are unfamiliar with the quirks of cognitive biases, then this book can give you a good introduction to the topic. The author gives a brief, superficial tour of many areas of cognitive study, but doesn't explore any of them enough to satisfy a reader who has any familiarity with the subject. If you are familiar with the terms "neuron", "bias" and "conditioning" you will probably want a different book.

He discusses our fear bias, various heuristics and some basic evolutionary biology. His style is scatter shot and he seems to wander from topic to topic without much structure. More annoyingly, he gets halfway through certain chapters and says "maybe this isn't really a bug because it mostly works OK."

Other books do a better job discussing the topics touched on in this book. For an evolutionary biology perspective try "The Accidental Mind," for a cognitive psychology point of view read "How We Decide" or "The Blank Slate", for a behavioral perspective "Mistakes Were Made", for an in depth discussion of fear "The Science of Fear."

I would recommend this to someone looking for a brief introduction to our brain's quirks, but the book will likely leave even the casual reader wanting more.
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- Sean

Not for the casual curious listener

I saw and heard a couple interviews with this author which made the book sound interesting, but after listening, I can not recommend it. The only audience that might find it truly interesting is a first or second year college student considering psychology or neurology- it seems to read like a very general cliffs notes of past studies in these fields.

After slogging through the early chapters of studies, facts, and details, I expected to be rewarded with some practical examples of brain bugs in modern society and how to defeat them. Instead, all the book seemed to do was sum up with "the human brain hasn't evolved, so some tasks aren't easy, and, uh, that's that."

I've never been inspired to write a negative review of a book until now. I don't disagree with the author; I just feel like the book read like a wikipedia entry- there are some background facts and figures and there are a couple juicy ideas that some contributor started writing about, but then became bored and let them die on the page. The interviews with the author had me really excited to read the book, but he left the fun and excitement out of the actual text for some reason.
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- Brett

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-11-2011
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.