Why is it hard to text and drive at the same time? How do you resist eating that extra piece of cake? Why does staring at a tax form feel mentally exhausting? Why can your child expertly fix the computer and yet still forget to put on a coat? From making a cup of coffee to buying a house to changing the world around them, humans are uniquely able to execute necessary actions. How do we do it? Or in other words, how do our brains get things done? In On Task, cognitive neuroscientist David Badre presents the first authoritative introduction to the neuroscience of cognitive control—the remarkable ways that our brains devise sophisticated actions to achieve our goals. We barely notice this routine part of our lives. Yet, cognitive control, also known as executive function, is an astonishing phenomenon that has a profound impact on our well-being.
Drawing on cutting-edge research, vivid clinical case studies, and examples from daily life, Badre sheds light on the evolution and inner workings of cognitive control. He examines issues from multitasking and willpower to habitual errors and bad decision making, as well as what happens as our brains develop in childhood and change as we age—and what happens when cognitive control breaks down. Ultimately, Badre shows that cognitive control affects just about everything we do.
A revelatory look at how billions of neurons collectively translate abstract ideas into concrete plans, On Task offers an eye-opening investigation into the brain’s critical role in human behavior.