Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jonah Lehrer: How We Decide

How We Decide
Tuesday, February 17th at 7 PM
BookShop West Portal

I'm currently reading Jonah Lehrer's previous book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, so I thought it would be fun to check out his appearance at BookShop West Portal. I was pleased to find the place is very much the neighborhood bookstore. Besides book signings, they sponsor a story time for toddlers, a knitting group & a women's writing group. Mr. Lehrer must have fans. I think they managed to cram in a crowd of 70, made up largely of middle-aged women. I was fortunate to be seated near the front, but the rows of folding chairs were so close together that I felt like I was on an airplane.

Mr. Lehrer is suffering from what he labeled a "book tour cold" & apologized for "sounding like Lauren Bacall." He is very young-looking, slim & probably looks great on TV. He gave a substantive & fascinating 45 minute talk about recent neuroscience research into human decision making, specifically the role of the dopamine system in motivating rewarding behavior. There was also a touch of self-help thrown in, as he implies we can use these findings to improve our own thinking. He had an impressive number of names, facts & anecdotes at his command. People asked a few questions, all focused on the talk's subject matter. He succeeded in making me want to read his new book, How We Decide.

During the Q & A, he gave us a little challenge in lateral thinking: What word can be combined with each of the following words to make a compound word? pine, crab, sauce

If you want to catch him while he's in town, he'll be appearing at the Commonwealth Club on Thursday.

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