cover image Look Again: The Power of Noticing What Was Always There

Look Again: The Power of Noticing What Was Always There

Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein. One Signal, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-6680-0820-1

Even the most “exhilarating” stimuli—a favorite song, an exciting romance—lose their luster over time, acknowledge cognitive neuroscientist Sharot (The Optimism Bias) and behavioral economist Sunstein (The World According to Star Wars) in this eye-opening study of how that process may be reversed. According to the authors, the brain acclimates to negative and positive stimuli over time as it “prioritize[s] what is new and different... filter[ing] out the old and expected.” However, some of that sensitivity can be restored by “temporarily changing your environment, changing the rules, changing the people with whom you interact, and taking real or imagined minibreaks from ordinary life.” Briefly leaving a quiet restaurant table with a beautiful view to visit a noisier area can enhance enjoyment of the meal, for example. It’s also possible to dishabituate to risk—in Sweden, switching the side of the road on which people drove temporarily decreased the rate of accidents (it returned to previous levels after about two years). Corralling a wealth of fascinating examples, including how vigilance against Covid-19 slackened the longer the pandemic wore on and the manner in which Germans acclimated to Nazism (“The collapse of freedom and rule of law occurred in increments, some of which seemed relatively insignificant”), Sharot and Sunstein provide a revelatory investigation of a phenomenon that’s as complex as it is common. This enthralls. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)