The brain may be the seat of consciousness and the engine of all human experience, but it’s also messy, fallible and disorganized. It’s undeniably impressive, but it’s far from perfect, and these imperfections influence everything that humans say, do and experience. In The Idiot Brain, Dean Burnett celebrates the downright laughable things our minds do to us, as well as exposing the fact that people are often way off in their thinking about how the brain works. For example, did you know that
your memory is egotistical?stress can actually increase your performance at a task?conspiracy theories and superstitions stem from your brain’s insistence that the world isn’t random?the brain’s limitations mean you really can miss something that’s right under your nose?the way the brain’s processing works means that time really does fly if you’re having fun?alcohol can sometimes improve your memory?
Dean Burnett’s unpredictable and entertaining first book explores the unexpected side of everyday life, highlighting where conventional thinking is wrong and how our brains trip us up at every turn. This is lucid, funny and smart: in short, the best kind of popular science.
British neuroscientist Burnett, author of the Guardian blog Brain Flapping, packs an incredible amount of information into an accessible package with this breezy, charming collection of pop neuroscience musings on "how the human brain does its own thing despite everything the modern world can throw at it." As the title suggests, Burnett highlights the dysfunctional results that occur when evolutionarily sensible systems engage with contexts that hominin ancestors would never have experienced, such as the motion sickness caused by the brain reading the mismatch between seeing a landscape move and the body feeling still, or the creation of conspiracy theories via the brain's tendency toward pattern matching. Burnett also addresses many basics of human behavior including anxiety, attention, memory, personality, and intelligence with clear references to both classic and current studies in psychology and biology, while keeping a critical eye on the limits of studies and their possible misapplication. He shares a teasing love for the quirks of human behavior and adopts an appropriately serious tone when discussing actual mental disorders. Burnett's smart, likable, self-referential, and very approachable personal voice permeates the text; readers will learn a lot from him, and will also just plain enjoy his work.