What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite by David DiSalvo

I know I frequently go on about learning more about a book from its sub-title than its main title, but ‘What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite’ makes it clear from the start what its author David DiSalvo is on about. Whether it’s true or not is going to depend on the individual. That’s you by the way. Principally, DiSalvo points out how easy it is for you to be deceived into making the wrong choices or even manipulated by others and that doing the opposite to the right decision can be seen as a normal reaction. Those who are manipulating you know these rules so this makes for a fairer battleground if you read and understand what he is driving at. The book lives up to its title so you not only end up knowing more about yourself but others as well. It’s a very enlightening book.

A lot of what DiSalvo discusses is anecdotal as he relates events in his own life, some of them very embarrassing from an ignorant point of view, as well as that of others.

There are some Science Fiction references in this book, one is definitely a bit wrong as Spock didn’t have a goatee beard in the original two pilots but did in the later story ‘Mirror, Mirror’. Whether DiSalvo was testing how much the reader is paying attention is up to you. Then again, I’d love to know which films, not cartoon shorts, that Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote starred in rather than not have bit parts in.

Some of the patterns are really more American than world-wide though but as that is the principle target audience that shouldn’t too surprising. If you dislike buying a car, there is some useful information to keep that in check about not getting caught out by going for the worse higher purchase deals. Like over here, take a trusted friend who can keep their head can do the sums with you as well as knowing what mechanical questions as well as what to look for when examining the car.

DiSalvo examines gambling and how people believe in picking the same numbers all the time because they will eventually come up lose far more. Although he targets casino betting, he overlooked that this is what so many people do with the various lotteries around the world as well. Your odds of winning with random number choices are as even as if you chose the same numbers every week. There can be no pattern in random order unless the game is fixed.

The connection people have to TV series and soaps being stronger than that of contact with real people is something I’ve discussed on occasion in my own editorials. DiSalvo goes on to describe it gives people a sense of belonging and over-comes any loneliness some people experience. There must be some sort of averages here. I’m very much the loner but never had to rely on a dose of soap opera to keep my sense of reality.

The lessons on how and when you’re told where your exam results will be actually has an effect on your sitting them and should be something teachers should pay attention to if they read chapter six which discusses the subject. Motivation works best from positive or optimistic thinking than pessimism.

Looking at DiSalvo’s Ultimatium Game, I’m surprised that he didn’t allow for people who might deem a 50:50 split to be fair but then, he might have been based on the American mentality.

Chapter ten covers why people look at reviews but it’s a shame he didn’t explore the selective amnesia people have to forget what they’ve read or been told when they watch the film or read the book to be caught up in the material.

I wish his exploration of empathy in chapter eleven had explored more but it does give account of how people like me can drain energy from others and the bit he didn’t cover, that we can also encourage others to do better. Not quite sure what Dr. Spock has to do with this but maybe he’s confused the paediatrician with a certain Vulcan. If you’re going to use any reference, it’s always best to check you’ve got it right.

An interesting point in chapter twelve heavily illustrates how we associate metaphor and your senses heighten up your reaction to reality. Don’t eat or drink something bitter if you want to give moral disapproval cos it heightens your emotional intensity. I think on some levels, the metaphor is just a means to put a handle on something by an association with something more familiar. I mean, it’s like knowing you’re going to see a horror film that your mind mentally gears up wanting to be horrified. A real lesson in expectation.

Chapter thirteen’s examination of how your various memories work was very enlightening and from my point of view, if you’re witness to anything then write down what you’ve seen as quickly as possible than rely on your memory of events.

I’ve only picked out bits that I’ve learnt the most from. The book has far more and I think everyone is going to come away from this book better informed. DiSalvo even covers the herd instinct where if one person does something, then most other people do as well. Whether you’ll break this habit and think for yourself afterwards, only you can tell. Buying this book isn’t about following the herd. If anything, it might stop you thinking that way which can’t be a bad thing. Read this book and get your free will back.

GF Willmetts
August 2012

(pub: Prometheus Books. 309 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $19.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-483-8)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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