Customer Reviews for

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

47 out of 48 people found this review helpful.

My thoughts

In this book, New York Times columnist David Brooks takes on the audacious endeavor of weaving together a unified picture of the human mind through various discoveries from the sciences. Oh ya, and it's all presented in the context of a story about two fictional charact...
In this book, New York Times columnist David Brooks takes on the audacious endeavor of weaving together a unified picture of the human mind through various discoveries from the sciences. Oh ya, and it's all presented in the context of a story about two fictional characters, Harold and Erica. (I wish the book would show you how to use non-cognitive skills to your advantage. "Emotional Intelligence 2.0" is a great book for this.) <P> You can get a good feel for the topics he covers from the chapter titles: <p> 1) Decision Making 2) The Map Meld 3) Mindsight 4) Mapmaking 5) Attachment 6) Learning 7) Norms 8) Self-Control 9) Culture 10) Intelligence 11) Choice Architecture 12) Freedom and Commitment 13) Limerence 14) The Grand Narrative 15) Metis 16) The Insurgency 17) Getting Older 18) Morality 19) The Leader 20) The Soft Side 21) The Other Education 22) Meaning <P> If you think that's a lot of chapters, you're right on target. It's a pretty thick book at 450 pages, but it's easy to move through (not quite novel easy, but much more so than typical nonfiction). <P> Book's strengths: <P> - If you are familiar with Brook's social commentary (and like it) you won't be disappointed, but this isn't the real strength of this book. <P> - In a style that's reminiscent of Malcolm Gladwell, Brooks offers a pop view of experimental psychology that is downright fascinating. The studies he explores are the real meat and merit of this book, and they expose many fallacies in the way we think that we think. Here are a few of the topics: <P> * The hidden role emotions play in making decisions. * How mirror neurons in the brain are wired to mimic the person we're talking to. * The massive role non-cognitive skills (aka, other than IQ) play in success, fulfillment, and achievement. <P> Book's weaknesses: <P> - My biggest criticism of this book is that the author created characters to personify the characteristics he wants us to understand. Allow me to explain. This is fine in theory but in practice (for him anyway) it falls flat compared to the entertaining and poignant explanations he writes when he isn't trying to explain through a character. <P> - As for the story itself, the narrative isn't as flat as your typical non-fiction fiction book (aka management fables and parables of other stripes), but a juicy, page-turning novel it is not. You'll get into the story enough at times that you'll want it to be a page turner, but it's too flat for that.

posted by G_Anderson on March 13, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

An interesting read

I decided to give this a chance, since I'm interested on the current understanding of the human condition. This is not a book for people who want to read deep accounts of particular research related to the human mind or human relationships. If you don't have the time or...
I decided to give this a chance, since I'm interested on the current understanding of the human condition. This is not a book for people who want to read deep accounts of particular research related to the human mind or human relationships. If you don't have the time or patience for the more in-depth books, this is an acceptable starting point. The book is written to tell the story of two fictional, "successful" humans in modern America as the means to introduce the current understanding of our human nature. It begins with the background and parents of the two fictional characters and continues until the eventual end-of-life. As a story, it is well-written, and it was easy to see yourself in comparison to the characters. The story is broken up with an overview of current research and understanding of how the human mind works. By biggest issues with this book are that it can be trite at times and Mr. Brooks too often pushes his own particular viewpoint on how he thinks humans and societies should work by not straying far from anything that doesn't support his Rockwellian idyllic America. In particular, the frequent allusions to belief in a higher power as the natural state of humanity was grating for me on a personal level. I feel humanity is pretty amazing of its own accord without having to inject an idea of god or gods into the mix. Overall, it is well written, and it seems to be well researched, albeit biased by the author's world view. If you're looking for any easy read to learn more about what research has shown about what it is to be human, it is worth your time.

posted by WisconsinReader on April 11, 2011

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  • Posted June 4, 2011

    Not quite a story about a hypothetical couple with no happy ending

    What a strange book...it's a "story" about a couple, but not really. It's interrupted with bits and pieces including discussions of clinical trials on social and individual behavior, sociology facts, and the milestones of life stages and facts about human development. As a psychologist, I found this book to be written for lay people. As the book intermittenly covers the life spans of the two main characters, it has a sad ending and leaves holes in the story about what happened to the couple at various points in their relationship. As a novel, the story is disjointed. Credit goes to the author for his extensive research into social and human behavior, however scattered and surface level.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    A book to skim for a miriad of studies ...some more interesting than others.

    Mr. Brooks apparently wanted to let us all know how much he (thinks) he knows in this collection of TNTC studies done to support multiple STLL unclear theories of human interactions and connections, resulting from genetic, social, cultural and economic variables. Many of the studies are interesting. However, Brooks doesn't present a cohesive story of we the Social Animal in all our complexity.

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    Posted March 9, 2011

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