Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up to (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

An unbelievably funny romp through a great many foibles that evolution has gifted to our brains, which do often get us into trouble. Burnett is a neuroscientist that moonlights as a comedian and the dry British wit is relentless. He catalogues how different processes in our brains are often pulling in different directions, how our memories are unreliable and ego biased, how we terrify ourselves by obsessing over things that never did and never will happen, how we change our behaviors when we’re in groups and the list goes on. Certain chapters are also refreshingly self-skeptical—he doubts his own theories and often states that our techniques are not yet adequate for making strong claims about brain behavior. The book sometimes feels like it loses focus but in the end that is part of its charm—and certainly something our brains are good at as well.

— From Andy's Staff Favorites


It's happened to all of us at some point. You walk into the kitchen, or flip open your laptop, or stride confidently up to a lectern, filled with purpose--and suddenly haven't the foggiest idea what you're doing. Welcome to your idiot brain.

Yes, it is an absolute marvel in some respects--the seat of our consciousness, the pinnacle (so far) of evolutionary progress, and the engine of all human experience--but your brain is also messy, fallible, and about 50,000 years out-of-date. We cling to superstitions, remember faces but not names, miss things sitting right in front of us, and lie awake at night while our brains replay our greatest fears on an endless loop.

Yet all of this, believe it or not, is the sign of a well-meaning brain doing its best to keep you alive and healthy. In Idiot Brain, neuroscientist Dean Burnett celebrates blind spots, blackouts, insomnia, and all the other downright laughable things our minds do to us, while also exposing the many mistakes we've made in our quest to understand how our brains actually work. Expertly researched and entertainingly written, this book is for everyone who has wondered why their brain appears to be sabotaging their life, and what on earth it is really up to.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393354119
ISBN-10: 0393354113
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 11th, 2017
Pages: 336
Language: English