My Rating: 6 / 10
This book has been sitting on my GoodReads shelf for quite a while now time. One of the selling point is an understanding as to why we laugh, interact and behave the way we do. For example, after watching Eddie Murphy’s Delirious on TV I saw polar opposite reactions from my mother and my wife. My wife was having laughing fits while my mother was dead panned in her reaction! This book delves into why this is the case!
One of the major aspects of this book is distinguishing between the old brain and the new brain (seen this analogy written in many other books). For example, the old brain is not deliberate (i.e. it is intuitive); if you get a sense of something immoral then your old brain is in action. If we had to explain that situation then that is when the new brain would kick in. That said, the new brain would struggle in explaining “the feeling”. Another way to explain it is that the old brain is the emotional component focused on the immediate reward and the new brain on delayed reward. This explanation makes more sense given inability to sometimes stop cravings with food or doing things that are primally driven (the old brain is overpowering the new brain in this example). After this explanation Davies then transitions into the core aspect of the book which is compellingness and how we find riveting things appealing for that very reason.
The book didn’t blow me away however I did learn a lot about a little; namely why we do the things we do. Whether that is our nature, psychological biases or aspects based on hope, joy, fear etc. Davies navigates you through and explains the why. As mentioned I have read other books that have explained this aspects (e.g. Jonathan Haidt). What you do get is a lot of examples of how we behave and react which can be of use. Perhaps not as riveting as I thought it may be?
Three key takeaways from the book:
- We are compelled by things we fear because some parts of our minds treat frightening information as important, be it truth, fiction or lies. We are compelled by things that give us hope because hope makes us feel happy or better prepared to encounter future difficulties.
- People are more likely to give to charity after riding up an escalator than riding down one. Without going into details we have a general association of goodness with “aboveness” and the upward direction.
- We like to watch sports for the same reason we like to play them. In our minds, we are playing them.