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What Makes Your Brain Happy
And Why You Should Do The Opposite
Our brains are prediction machines that process info to determine what's going to happen next. The brain specializes in pattern recognition, anticipation of threats, and story telling. It strongly prefers certainty and constancy, and sees any unpredictability or uncertainty as a threat.
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It's neater to believe that anger, for instance, launches from one central place, than to accept that it doesn't "live" in any single place in the brain but is rather the result of multiple brain regions cross-activating in less than tidy ways.
We have steadily moved away from dualism - idea that brain and mind are separate. "The mind is just the brain doing its job."
We want answers, and so we listen to people who say they have answers. We want things solved and resolved, not messy and inconclusive, so an "answer" is the default, rather than healthy skepticism.
We completely overestimate our power of self-control. Dieters, smokers etc, all relapse. Partly because we think we can handle more temptation than we actually can.
"What the hell" thinking - if you think you've blown yr diet for the day, you rationalize that you might as well enjoy it, and restart diet tomorrow.
"Moral cleansing". The guy who raises money to build childrens' hospitals in poor countries. Sometimes money comes because donor wants to cover up some other corrupt activity. The money raiser looks the other way, rationalizing that if he blew the whistle, the hospital wouldn't get built (and he wouldn't get his fee). If he ignores unethical behaviour, that's ok because on the other side of the seesaw he is doing noble work.
When we look at monkeys, we see a species showing emotional and social issues similar to our own, and dealing with them with basic skills that fit the need. But if an alien was observing us, he wd see a species trying to manage social complexity that is way over our heads.
When we first meet someone, two parts of brain activated - the amygdala(emotional learning and trust evaluation) but also part which evaluates rewards. We are wired to evaluate people largely on a trust basis, and in our brains, trust is linked to rewards. Both earning another's trust and feeling at ease enough to trust them are rewards for a happy brain. When we are trusted, the brain releases oxytocin, which induces us to reciprocate the trust, even with strangers.
And, the impression we are trying to give influences how we evaluate others. What happens is, if you're trying to be outgoing and cheerful, you lift the expected standard for the other person's cheerfulness, and of course, they often fall short of this higher standard.
The more often a message is repeated, the more likely we are to believe it, particularly if we're not really paying attention. Our brain accepts messages that are short and easy to understand - we process them so quickly that they become familiar without us even noticing.
If you read about someone exerting self-control, you become better at exerting it yourself. But if you are asked to imagine yourself in a self-control situation, your reserves get depleted in same way as if you were having to exert self-control.
All other animals are born hardwired to get up and get ready to run, but all humans are hardwired for is to observe (and learn).
People who open restaurants for the first time are notorious for saying e didn't know how much we didn't know!" They saw a thin slice of restaurant business and thought that was all they needed to know about.
Studies show that when faced with a problem, it's better to have specific knowledge relevant to that problem than general problem-solving skills.
If you imagine looking at a tempting treat, your desire for it will increase. But if you imagine eating it, your desire will lessen. For our brains, doing something and imagining it are very similar. We can trick our brains into feeling like we've already enjoyed the treat.
Problem that most of the things that seem "common sense"are not. 'Tip of the iceberg' syndrome - if you think you understand something, there's probably something you're missing.
Political messages more effective the more often they're repeated. Doesn't matter whether true or not.
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