The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

“We are like the proverbial drunken man looking for his car keys under the street light. (“Did you drop them here?” asks the cop. “No” says the man, “I dropped them back there in the alley, but the light is better over here.”) Because we can see only one little corner of the mind’s vast operation, we are surprised when urges, wishes, and temptations emerge, seemingly from nowhere. We make pronouncements, vows, and resolutions, and then are surprised by our own powerlessness to carry them out. We sometimes fall into the view that we are fighting with our unconscious, our id, or our animal self. But really we are the whole thing. We are the rider, and we are the elephant. Both have their strengths and special skills.”

– Jonathan Haidt, THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS: FINDING MODERN TRUTH IN ANCIENT WISDOM

Incognito: The Secret Lives Of The Brain

David Eagleman, author of INCOGNITO: THE SECRET LIVES OF THE BRAIN:

“What is very clear is that the unconscious mind is the one that’s in charge and the conscious bit on top is not the one driving the boat. And that most of how you feel and how you act and how you behave and what you believe to be true – all this stuff is being generated by systems under the hood that you have no access to and very little acquaintance with even.”

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Noble laureate Daniel Kahneman from his book THINKING, FAST AND SLOW:

“When you are asked what you are thinking about, you can normally answer. You believe you know what goes on in your mind, which often consists of one conscious thought leading in an orderly way to another. But that is not the only way the mind works, nor indeed is that the typical way. Most impressions and thoughts arise in your conscious experience without your knowing how they got there. You cannot trace how you came to the belief that there is a lamp on the desk in front of you, or hoe you detected an hint of irritation in your spouse’s voice on the telephone, or how you managed to avoid a threat on the road before you became consciously aware of it. The mental work that produces impressions, intuitions and many decisions goes on in silence in our minds.”

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

“Chance favors the connected mind.”

In 2001, Steven Johnson’s EMERGENCE: THE CONNECTED LIVES OF ANTS, BRAINS, CITIES AND SOFTWARE introduced a wider audience to emergence, the phenomena “whereby”, as Wikipedia describes it “larger entities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities such that the larger entities exhibit properties the smaller/simpler entities do not exhibit.” Hot stuff!

Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain

Michael Gazzaniga is a leading researcher in cognitive neuroscience. In his book WHO’S IN CHARGE: FREE WILL AND THE SCIENCE OF THE BRAIN, Gazzaniga discusses the interpreter module of the brain, an area which he introduced in the early 1970’s:

“How come we have that powerful, almost self-evident feeling that we are unified when we are comprised of a gazillion modules? We do not experience a thousand chattering voices, but a unified experience. Consciousness flows easily and naturally from one moment to the next with a single, unified, and coherent narrative. The psychological unity we experience emerges out of the specialized system called “the interpreter” that generates explanations about our perceptions, memories, and actions and the relationships among them. This leads to a personal narrative, the story that ties together all the disparate aspects of our conscious experience into a coherent whole: order from chaos. … Its drive to generate hypotheses is the trigger for human beliefs, which, in turn, constrain our brain.”

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It

Kelly McGonigal, the author of THE UPSIDE OF STRESS: WHY STRESS INS GOOD FOR YOU, AND HOW TO GET GOOD AT IT:

“The harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”

Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games

“Misery gives way to fun when you take an object, event, situation or scenario that wasn’t designed for you, that isn’t invested in you, that isn’t concerned in the slightest for your experience of it, and then treats it as if it were… This is what play means. Play isn’t doing what we want, but doing what we can with the materials we find along the way. And fun isn’t the experience of pleasure, but the outcome of tinkering with a small part of the world in a surprising way.”

-Ian Bogost, PLAY ANYTHING: THE PLEASURE OF LIMITS, THE USES OF BOREDOM, AND THE SECRET OF GAMES

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

“Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality—the “north and south of temperament,” as one scientist puts it—is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Our place on this continuum influences our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation. resolve differences, and show love. It affects the careers we choose and whether or not we succeed at them. It governs how likely we are to exercise, commit adultery, function well without sleep, learn from our mistakes, place big bets in the stock market, delay gratification, be a good leader, and ask “what if.”

– Susan Cain, QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN’T STOP TALKING