How we decide by Jonah Lehrer

If the game is simple or obvious, then you’ve made a mistake. The game is never simple. You’ve always got to wonder: what am I missing ? – Binger

Instead of cursorily  looking at *all* the wisdom this book imparts, I will like to mention an amazing experiment described in the book.

The experiment was done by a Dutch psychologist Dijksterhuis. While considering a new car for himself, he realised that the amount of information given to him was overwhelming and his conscious brain was not able to come up with a decision. He came up with an experiment to show how our conscious brain is incapable of making the correct choice in such a situation.

The first experiment started by collecting a group of Dutch car shoppers. They were given a description of four different used cars. Each car was rated on four different categories – for example mileage, transmission, sound system etc. The experiment was designed in such a way that one car was objectively ideal with “predominately positive” aspects. After showing them the cars, Dijksterhuis split them into two groups. The first group was given time to consider the pros and cons while the second group was distracted by word puzzles. While playing the games the second group was suddenly asked to make a choice. The result was that the first group performed significantly better than the second. A little rational analysis is better.

In the second version of the experiment, with the same cars but rated them on 12 different categories – resulting in 48 different information pieces. In this case, the first group chose the ideal car less than 25% of the time while the second group did it more than 60% of the time.

A heartily enjoyable and interesting read. Highly recommended.


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