Two Books On Cognitive Science You Should Read
As I mentioned in this post, one of the three primary planks of my worldview is that, “…the human brain is a woefully inadequate decision making substrate.” I started adopting this posture in graduate school and have refined it with constant input from the cognitive psychology and neurobiology literature over the years. Luckily, you don’t have to put in that kind of time. Simply go out and read Rational Choice in an Uncertain Worlds by Hastie and Dawes and The Accidental Mind by Linden.
The former is an overview of all the logical mistakes the mind makes when trying to reach a decision. Khaneman and Tversky’s Choices, Values, and Frames is considered more seminal (and Tversky was one of my favorite professors in graduate school), but Hastie and Dawes is both more approachable and more complete in my view.
The later is an overview of how the brain is put together and operates at the biological level. There are a couple of really, really dry chapters on the biochemistry of never signal propagation that you just have to get through. But the rest of it is pretty enjoyable.
If you read these books, you’ll undertsand why I’m very skeptical of “trusting my instincts” in any situation that isn’t a fairly close parallel to something encountered in the ancestral environment. However, this knowledge has also made me optimistic in a weird way. Given the micro-level capabilities of our brains, it seems like we shouldn’t be able to get very much done, but our civilization is actually quite remarkable. So the whole is substantially greater than the sum of its parts. There must be something in the dynamics of society that allows us to overcome, in some haphazard way, our individual cognitive limitations.