You are currently viewing The Science of Decision-Making: A Critical Review of Smart Choices and The Memory Illusion

The Science of Decision-Making: A Critical Review of Smart Choices and The Memory Illusion

——Smart Choices by John S. Hammond & The Memory Illusion by Julia Shaw

In the realm of decision-making, two captivating books that have garnered considerable attention and provoked insightful discussions are “Smart Choices” by John S. Hammond and “The Memory Illusion” by Julia Shaw. While seemingly unrelated at first glance, these two works delve into distinct yet interconnected aspects of human cognition, exploring how they shape our choices and memory. By delving into the realms of decision-making and memory manipulation, Hammond and Shaw offer valuable insights into the complexities of the human mind. In this comparative study, we will examine the fundamental concepts, distinctive perspectives, and practical implications presented in “Smart Choices” and “The Memory Illusion,” seeking to understand the similarities, divergences, and potential synergies between these influential works. As we embark on this intellectual journey, we aim to unravel the intricate relationship between decision-making and memory, shedding light on the multifaceted nature of the human cognitive experience as exemplified by the thought-provoking writings of Hammond and Shaw.

Brief Summary of Two Books

Smart Choices by John S. Hammond

Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions, written by John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, and Howard Raiffa, is a book that provides readers with a framework for making better decisions in both personal and professional contexts. The authors explain that decision-making is an essential skill, yet many people struggle to make effective choices due to biases, limited information, and conflicting objectives.

The book offers a step-by-step approach to decision-making, introducing the concept of “decision analysis” as a tool to guide the process. It begins by encouraging readers to clarify their objectives and identify the full range of alternatives available to them. The authors emphasize the importance of considering multiple options and addressing underlying needs, rather than rushing to a single choice.

Next, the book introduces the concept of “uncertainty” and teaches readers how to accurately assess and assign probabilities to different outcomes. It also discusses the impact of biases and emotions on decision-making, highlighting common fallacies that often lead to poor choices.

Moreover, Smart Choices explores the concept of risk and methods for evaluating potential consequences. The authors introduce decision trees as a visual tool for weighing the various factors and connecting choices to outcomes. They also introduce the concept of “expected value” to help readers assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of each option, considering both immediate and long-term implications.

The book then delves into the importance of gathering and analyzing relevant information before making a decision. It encourages readers to critically evaluate information sources, identify biases, and synthesize data to make informed choices. It also advises readers to seek out diverse perspectives and challenge assumptions to reduce the impact of cognitive biases.

Furthermore, the authors emphasize the significance of learning from past decisions and adapting strategies accordingly. They provide practical advice on overcoming common obstacles, maintaining flexibility, and seeking feedback to continuously improve decision-making skills.

Smart Choices concludes by summarizing the key concepts and offering a set of guidelines to enhance decision-making abilities. The authors emphasize the importance of a structured approach, balancing rational analysis with intuition, and embracing uncertainty as an inherent part of the decision-making process.

Overall, Smart Choices offers readers a comprehensive guide to making better decisions by applying a systematic framework and incorporating data-driven analysis. It equips individuals with the tools and mindset necessary to navigate a complex world and make more informed, effective choices.

The Memory Illusion by Julia Shaw

“The Memory Illusion” by Julia Shaw explores the fascinating and often deceiving nature of human memory. Shaw, a renowned psychologist, delves into the science behind memory formation, its fallibility, and our tendency to create false memories.

The book begins by examining the process of memory formation and how it can be influenced by various factors such as suggestion, imagination, and personal biases. Shaw highlights research studies and real-life examples to demonstrate how our memories can be distorted and manipulated, leading us to believe in events that never occurred or remembering them differently than how they actually happened.

Shaw challenges commonly held beliefs about memory, illustrating the flaws in eyewitness testimonies and the unreliability of our own recollections. She explores the implications of false memories, including their impact on criminal justice cases and the potential for creating false beliefs.

Furthermore, the author discusses the malleability of memories and the concept of reconsolidation, where memories can be altered or rewritten after retrieval. She explains how our memories can be influenced by external sources of information, leading to a merging of real experiences with fictional elements.

“The Memory Illusion” also delves into the ethical implications of memory manipulation, particularly in the realm of therapy and the controversial practice of repressed memory therapy. Shaw provides insights into how therapists and individuals can navigate the complexities of memory research while ensuring the preservation of accurate recall.

Ultimately, Shaw emphasizes the importance of recognizing the fallibility of memory and understanding the factors that can distort it. By shedding light on the science behind memory, she aims to enhance our ability to critically evaluate our recollections and challenge the accuracy of long-held beliefs.

Comparison between Two Books

Similarities in Decision-making

There are several similarities in the books “Smart Choices” by John S. Hammond and “The Memory Illusion” by Julia Shaw when it comes to decision-making. Both books explore the complexities and biases that are inherent in human decision-making processes.

1. Cognitive Biases: Both books acknowledge the presence of cognitive biases in decision-making. Hammond in “Smart Choices” identifies common biases such as confirmation bias, availability bias, and anchoring. Similarly, Shaw in “The Memory Illusion” discusses cognitive biases such as source misattribution and suggestibility. Both authors emphasize the importance of understanding and overcoming these biases to make better decisions.

2. Emotional Influences: Both books recognize the impact of emotions on decision-making. Hammond in “Smart Choices” highlights the role of emotions in altering our judgment and influencing our choices. Shaw in “The Memory Illusion” addresses the connection between memory and emotions, discussing how emotional experiences affect our memory and ultimately influence our decisions.

3. Flawed Memory: Both authors touch upon the fallibility of human memory when making decisions. Hammond in “Smart Choices” mentions how our memory can be unreliable, leading to flawed decision-making. Shaw in “The Memory Illusion” goes deeper into the topic, explaining various memory distortions and explaining how they can impact our decision-making processes.

4. Importance of Rationality: Both books stress the significance of rational thinking and logical reasoning in decision-making. Hammond in “Smart Choices” emphasizes the need to evaluate alternatives carefully and assess their potential consequences. Shaw in “The Memory Illusion” encourages readers to critically analyze their memories, separate fact from fiction, and make decisions based on objective information rather than distorted recollections.

In summary, both “Smart Choices” by John S. Hammond and “The Memory Illusion” by Julia Shaw discuss the complexities of decision-making, acknowledging the presence of cognitive biases, emotional influences, flawed memory, and the importance of rationality in the decision-making process. Through their research and analysis, the authors provide valuable insights and strategies to improve decision-making skills.

Divergences in Decision-making

Smart Choices by John S. Hammond and The Memory Illusion by Julia Shaw are both books that delve into the intricacies of decision-making and how our memory plays a significant role in this process. While they explore similar themes, there are notable divergences in their perspectives and approaches.

One major divergence between the two books is their emphasis on different aspects of decision-making. Smart Choices focuses on providing readers with a systematic framework for making better decisions. It introduces the WRAP (Widen Your Options, Reality-Test Your Assumptions, Attain Distance Before Deciding, and Prepare to Be Wrong) method, which emphasizes the importance of considering multiple alternatives and evaluating them objectively. On the other hand, The Memory Illusion investigates the fallibility of human memory and its impact on decision-making. It delves into the concept of false memories and how they can create biases and distort our perceptions, ultimately influencing the choices we make.

Another contrasting point is the role of rationality in decision-making as discussed in the books. Smart Choices places a strong emphasis on rational decision-making, advocating for a logical analysis of available options and an objective evaluation of consequences. It encourages readers to consider both the short-term and long-term implications of their decisions. In contrast, The Memory Illusion challenges the notion of pure rationality, arguing that our memories and emotions often shape our decisions more than we realize. Shaw highlights how our memories can be manipulated and influenced by external factors, ultimately affecting the choices we make.

Furthermore, Smart Choices focuses on the process of decision-making itself, providing readers with a step-by-step guide to enhance their decision-making abilities. It offers practical tools and techniques for structured thinking, problem-solving, and managing uncertainty. The book encourages readers to be more proactive and strategic in their decision-making. On the other hand, The Memory Illusion takes a more psychological and introspective approach. It delves into the workings of our memory and explores the reasons why our recollections can be flawed and unreliable. It aims to raise awareness about memory distortions and how they can impact our decision-making, urging readers to question the accuracy of their own memories.

In summary, while both Smart Choices and The Memory Illusion cover the topic of decision-making, they approach it from distinct angles. Smart Choices focuses on a systematic decision-making process and the importance of rationality, while The Memory Illusion explores the fallibility of human memory and its influence on decision-making. These divergences offer readers different perspectives and insights into how they can make better-informed choices.


The worthiness of a book depends on individual interests and preferences. Both “Smart Choices” by John S. Hammond and “The Memory Illusion” by Julia Shaw offer valuable insights in different areas.

“Smart Choices” focuses on decision-making and provides practical techniques for making better choices in various aspects of life, including personal and business decisions. It offers a systematic approach to decision-making that can be helpful for individuals looking to improve their decision-making skills.

“The Memory Illusion” explores the fascinating subject of memory and discusses how our memories can be inaccurate and easily manipulated. It offers insights into why our memories are not as reliable as we might think and how false memories can be created. This book is valuable for those interested in psychology, neuroscience, and the mysteries of human memory.

Ultimately, the choice between these two books depends on your personal interests. If you are more interested in improving decision-making skills, “Smart Choices” may be more suitable. On the other hand, if you have a fascination with memory and its complexities, “The Memory Illusion” could be a great choice.

Leave a Reply