John Lehrer: "Each of us is able to come to a successful solution"
Decision-making, as we know from experience, it's necessary, responsible, and sometimes painful. Renowned neuroscientist John Lehrer told us about whether we can finally learn to choose the toothpaste, job or partner the best way.
Your book "How we make decisions," became an international bestseller. Why did you want to write about it?
John Lehrer (Jonah Lehrer) was born in 1981 in Los Angeles (USA). He studied at Columbia University, he worked in the laboratory of Nobel Biology Prize Eric Kandel (Eric Richard Kandel). Since 2004, he switched to literature and philosophy. In 2007, he published his first book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist (Houghton Miffl in Harcourt) - "Proust was a neuroscientist," not translated into Russian; in 2009, the second - "How do we make decisions" - became a worldwide bestseller. Who is going to publish his new book - about creativity.
Going to the supermarket, I could spend half an hour, for example, trying to determine the type of cereal for breakfast! And then another half an hour of thought about what kind of toothpaste to take ... Well, at some point suffer it became impossible, and the work helped me a lot over the book. Writing it, I have learned to take many decisions faster. Because exactly know: too much time spent on decision-making, it does not guarantee that it will be successful. Direct dependence is not here. As there is, for example, and a direct relationship between the amount of information that we have, and the quality of our solutions. Sometimes, additional knowledge about the situation only harms, hampering our choice ...
You could not find a single algorithm to make the right decisions?
D. L .:
Unfortunately no. The human brain is still poorly understood and enigmatic. A science of the brain is still too young, and she is not only there is no ready-made answers, it is still not always able to even put precise questions. Therefore, if someone will claim: "I know exactly how to always make the right decisions, listen to me - and you can do it" - do not believe this man. He's just lying. We are able to identify only the most general principles you can follow to get closer to the desired goal. For example, following the intuition?
D. L .:
The ability of our intelligence to instantly find answers and solutions is predictable logic really helps us sometimes. But to trust their instincts should not always. For example, you need to take a decision, that is to make a choice. You were in a similar situation and have experienced something similar. If you have enough time, you are likely to think about it, think of his actions at the time and their outcome. But it happens that the time is short, we must act quickly. And intuition is included here. Memory has not yet had time to find the right events, cause and effect, but your emotional memory have to compare them. If still your choice has been successful, the inner voice (in the hope of a new portion of positive emotions) shouting: "Come on, go!" And if it ended badly, in effect takes the fear, and the same voice of protest: "Do not do it in any case! "Like this, from the point of view of modern science, and intuition works. When we find ourselves in a completely new situation for themselves, no inner voice will not help us. We just never experienced emotion, the memory of which could be useful. And even if intuition is trying to say something, listen to it should not be: will have to act in reliance on logic and common sense.
The challenges of a better deal with a light heart
The intuition is useless if we find ourselves in a situation that is not encountered before and which can not be remembered, says John Lehrer. Here comes in mind. But this does not mean that emotions must be silent until the logic works. Indirectly, emotions can still help us ... but if it's positive emotions. Lehrer cites the work of Mark Jung-Beeman (Mark Jung-Beeman), a neuroscientist who studied intuition. He showed that in a good mood, we are much better able to cope with complex tasks than when angry or upset. In his experiments, gay people have decided to 20% more vocabulary puzzles than sad. Jung-Beeman sees explanation is that areas of the brain responsible for controlling behavior in this case is not busy control the emotional life of man. They do not "survive" because of the fact that we are a humorless, and therefore does not distract the significant internal resources on something to improve our mood. As a result, the rational brain can fully concentrate on what needs to be - namely, to search for the optimal solution of a specific task. ' (Astrel, Corpus, 2010).
So how do the most successful solutions emerge?
D. L .:
Due to the interaction of logic and intuition, the two types of thinking. And in order to thereby adjust the brain, you need to learn to think about how we think. No animal on the planet does not think about the process, not trying to figure out what's going on in his mind - just people! And it is very unfortunate that we are doing this is much less than they could. We make decisions only spontaneously, or are guided by emotions, or ... But you never know how even a little - only without thinking about how they need to take. But this is a great and unique gift, and we simply have no right to use it to the fullest!
How can you realize what's going on in our heads?
D. L .:
Practice - this is the main key! It is necessary to constantly practice. Of course, much easier to make a minimum of effort, to think without thinking, making decisions, not taking the trouble to understand how we do it. But if we really want to achieve something, we inevitably have to work more. It happens everywhere: to become a good athlete, you have to train harder to succeed in science - devote more time to research and get acquainted with the work of their colleagues. And decision-making, everything is exactly the same. Will have to spend more labor. I have to think about how we do it. And when it becomes a regular practice, a habit, we will surely be able to make much better decisions. It is only necessary to understand that we are all different, and each person's brain has individual characteristics. One skill that can be given a lot of effort, and others less, but that all are able to succeed, I'm sure. A good example is the meditation: in a sense, this is also the practice of understanding how we think - and the ability to get rid of unnecessary thoughts. Meditation technique also seize at once. But do it anyone can. Will we ever understand how our brains work? We do all we learn about the mechanisms of thinking?
D. L .:
To be honest, I'm not sure. Brain and thought processes - perhaps the biggest mystery in the universe. We can say that in some respects we are closer to understanding it, but others are faced with an even greater mystery. And still we do not understand how we think - as we get.
Similar things are happening in other areas of science. After all, physics and a few decades ago were almost certain that is about to understand everything about the structure of our world ...
"Only we, the people who are able to think about what's going on in our heads. Is a pity that we do it less often than they could! "
D. L .:
Exactly! And what do we have today? String theory, a multiplicity of universes guesses and hypotheses about the existence of at least 11 measurements! The layman does not able to understand that today's theoretical physics thinks about the world. But in a state of suspicion, that this science is in greater confusion than ever before. But this happens in parallel with the accumulation of new knowledge. Their volume is growing, and understanding has not yet added. And neuroscience, I think, is doing exactly the same way.
You speak as if not fully believe in the knowable world. How can you be a popularizer of science with such views?
D. L .:
Perhaps I can truly be called an agnostic. In the sense that I believe in the infinity of the universe - and, therefore, in an endless process of its knowledge ... I'm not ready to talk about God, the miracles and holiness, it is too large and complex topic. But I think that people tend to put God to the place where they do not have enough knowledge of their own, where they are faced with a mystery that can not be resolved. And in a sense, God may be the secret of our consciousness and thinking. God can not be outside, but inside us. So solve this mystery, we can know God?
D. L .:
No, he simply moved somewhere else.
And you call yourself an optimist?
This, of course, depends on the day of the week! But seriously - I am an optimist in regard to science: I believe that it can do better, and the people themselves, and their lives.