Posts Tagged ‘Decision-making’

Neuroscience, Psychology, & Decision-Making

Monday, January 30th, 2012

image courtesy Microsoft clip art collections

When Dan Ariely published his second book, The Upside of Irrationality, I received an announcement on email about a book signing in Geneen Auditorium.  Students and faculty from throughout the campus packed the giant room and listened with careful attention as Dan described his experiments with decision making that illustrated how expectations and emotions skew our reasoning abilities.  While everyone knew Dan as an excellent story teller, the audience also came from all corners of the university because they were intensely interested in how their minds really functioned.

In recent months, the New York Times has listed several best sellers, written by neuroscientists, psychologists and journalists, which are relevant to faculty and students in many fields including decision making, leadership and marketing.  Below is a list of the Ford Library’s newest books on the topic.  Other titles are on exhibit in the display window at the entrance to the Ford Library and in another book display in the Economics section within the library.

Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
Explores two types of decision making, intuitive and deliberate (fast and slow) that underlie our irrational choices and contradictory thinking. Recommended for fans of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.

The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks
Presents six case histories of people who lost a key visual ability, such as how to recognize familiar faces or to read simple words, and describes the ways their brains compensated to enable them to live fulfilled lives.

Incognito by David Eagleman
Explains that human brains are composed of a complex array of pieces and parts, most of which we have no access to, and shows how we are influenced profoundly by unconscious drives of which we are unaware.

You are not so smart by David McRaney
Illustrates that humans are prone to think in certain ways and not others, by using 48 cases of self-delusion caused by cognitive biases and logical fallacies.  Easy and fun read.

Now you see it by Cathy N. Davidson
Analyzes familiar patterns of attention, suggesting new ways to see and learn that work best for education and the workplace in the digital age. Author is former Vice Provost at Duke.

The tell-tale brain by V. S. Ramachandran
Uses the bizarre symptoms seen in the author’s neurology patients  to unravel the connections between the brain, mind and body.

Self comes to mind by Antonio Damasio
Takes an evolutionary perspective on the relationships among brain, mind and self, exploring consciousness, what it is and how it is created. Recommended for readers with backgrounds in science and philosophy.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Reviews: Writing About Thinking

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

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Explaining how our brains work is a new preoccupation among economists, marketers, investors and professors. Three new books in the Ford Library help explain why we act as we do, and teach us better ways of thinking and deciding.

Mauboussin, Michael J. Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition. Harvard Business Press, 2009.

Deciding “from the gut” may work in static environments, but complex dynamic situations require deliberate analysis, where thinking twice often leads to counter-intuitive and better solutions.

Medina, John. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. Pear Press, 2008.

A molecular biologist explains what scientists know about the workings of the human brain and shows how to improve its performance for ourselves and our daily lives. Also available as an audiobook.

Eisold, Ken. What You don’t Know You know: Our Hidden Motives in Life, Business and Everything Else. Other Press, 2009.

A practicing psychoanalyst shows how the unconscious mind shapes our thinking and behavior.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: The Upside of Irrationality

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

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Ariely, Dan. The upside of irrationality : the unexpected benefits of defying logic at work and at home. Harper, 2010.

Fuqua faculty member Dan Ariely has written a second best-selling book about the biases that influence our behavior and answer the question – Why do we act the way we do?

As in his previous book, Predictably Irrational, Prof. Ariely describes experiments that illustrate basic principles of behavioral economics, such as adaptation and empathy. He discusses biases, such as the IKEA effect — why we overvalue what we make by hand – and the Not-Invented-Here bias – why we overvalue our own ideas. Readers learn how a sincere apology can reduce anger; how employees value meaningful work; and why large bonuses do not improve performance (hear that, Goldman Sachs?). People who are aware of their biases make better decisions.

The Upside of Irrationality is written in a conversational tone, peppered with charming and humorous stories about Ariely’s family and friends. Ariely also draws on his experiences as a burn patient to explain his outlook on life. A personal story and an engrossing read, the book feels like a long discussion over dinner. Upside is one of the best books of the year.

The Upside of Irrationality is also available in Ford Library as an audiobook.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Reviews: “Cheap” and “Free”

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

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Shell, Ellen Ruppel. Cheap : the high cost of discount culture. Penguin, 2009.

Anderson, Chris. Free : the future of a radical price. Hyperion, 2009.

An outlet mall in Philadephia rings in four times as many visitors as the Liberty Bell. Colonial Williamsburg can’t hold a candle to the Potomac Mill outlet mall. So writes author Ellen Ruppel Shell in the book Cheap. Outlet malls are located 25 to 100 miles from a metropolitan area as a deliberate strategy. Not only is the land inexpensive, but the inconvenient location connotes cheap and America has a love affair with cheap.

Ruppel Shell covers a wide range of topics, including the history of bargains and markdowns, the effects of discounting on durability and craftsmanship and the psychology of discount decision making for the shopper. The hunt for bargain prices has led to a host of problems, including an unsafe food supply, global poverty and environmental devastation. Consumers have paid a high price for cheap goods.

So how low could prices go? In Free, author Chris Anderson makes the case that in an online economy, the cost of distribution is driving toward zero. Businesses have become more profitable by giving things away than they can by charging for them. (more…)

The Director’s Picks

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

director's picks

The Director’s Picks

Fuqua School Dean Blair Sheppard asked Ford Library Director, Meg Trauner to select 5 recent business books that should “be on his nightstand”.

Click the titles below for information on location and availability.



Book Review: How We Decide

Friday, July 31st, 2009

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Lehrer, Jonah. How we decide. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

For 35 years, my father designed and tested truck transmissions. Late in his career, his company sent him worldwide to analyze problems for customers. Sometimes he could pinpoint the problem after listening to the engine for several minutes. He always considered himself totally rational and would have denied that emotion could have played a part in his diagnostic skill.

How We Decide is about the recent discoveries in neuroscience that explain how decisions are made. Early cognitive science described the mind as operating in a deliberate and rational manner. Yet the mind is composed of a network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. When someone makes a decision, emotional impulses influence judgment, no matter how carefully the pros and cons have been weighed. (more…)

Book Reviews: Nudge and Sway

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

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Brafman, Ori and Rom Brafman. Sway: the irresistible pull of irrational behavior. Doubleday, 2008.

Thaler, Richard H. and Cass R. Sunstein. Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness. Yale, 2008.

Most people consider themselves to be rational. They evaluate their options and make decisions rationally, or at least they think so. Recently, a number of books have been published that show that people routinely make bad decisions because they are not paying attention; because they are influenced by their emotions and expectations; because they are pressured by social norms; or because they have limited self control.

The most popular and well-regarded of these books is the best-selling Predictably Irrational by Fuqua faculty member Dan Ariely. Predictably Irrational is a fantastic book that has been reviewed extensively, including reviews in the New York Times and on NPR.

Predictably Irrational is the first go-to source in learning why and how people behave as they do. But two other new books also merit mention:

Book Reviews: Negotiating Globally

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

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How to negotiate anything with anyone anywhere around the world by Frank L. Acuff, Amacom, 3rd ed., 2008.

After a brief discussion of the basics of negotiation, this book discusses how to greet, communicate and negotiate with people in 62 countries worldwide. This book also includes a brief summary of the business climate in 7 regions of the world.

Global negotiation : the new rules by William Hernandez Requejo and John L. Graham, Palgrave, 2008.

In this practical book, Requejo and Graham lay the groundwork for sustainable business relationships worldwide. The first part of this book discusses the multiple ways cultural differences in values and communication styles can cause misunderstandings between otherwise positively disposed business partners. The authors then discuss their model of global negotiation that includes intelligence gathering, communication and creativity. The last part of the book focuses on Indian, Chinese and Mexican negotiation styles.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business. All rights reserved.

Summer Reading at Ford

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008


Even during summer break Ford Library keeps adding new books to our collection. Come check out our New Book and New Audiobook sections for even more great choices. (Click on any of the titles below to check availability or to place a hold.)

Fun Summer Reading:

Happiness, Health, and Work:


Book Review: The Opposable Mind

Friday, May 30th, 2008

© amazon book cover image

Martin, Roger L. The opposable mind : how successful leaders win through integrative thinking. Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Author, and Dean of the Rotman School of Business, at the University of Toronto, Roger Martin studied fifty superior business leaders to discern a shared theme — what makes these people successful? He found that these successful business leaders had a special way of thinking. When faced with problems, they all were predisposed to construct solutions using diametrically opposing ideas, those that seem, on the surface, to be mutually exclusive. Successful leaders avoided settling for one alternative or another, but instead they produced a synthesis that was superior to either of the opposing ideas. Martin calls this thinking process Integrative thinking.

One example that Martin uses is a local company, Red Hat in Research Triangle Park. In the mid 1990’s the software industry was dominated by two business models. In the proprietary software model, companies invested heavily in research and development, guarded their intellectual property and charged high prices. These companies had high profit margins. The alternative model was the free software model where suppliers sold CD-ROMs that included both software and the source code. Prices were low but volume was high. These seemed to be the only two alternatives.