Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind

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Overview

"Robert Kurzban is one of the best evolutionary psychologists of his generation: he is distinctive not only for his own successful research and sophisticated understanding of psychology, but also because of his wit—Kurzban is genuinely clever, sly, succinct, and sometimes hilarious."—Steven Pinker, Harvard University

"In this amazing book, Robert Kurzban carries out a brilliantly thought-provoking conversation with himself that made me think hard—and laugh out loud. Using clever examples and a revolutionary scientific approach, he shows that contradiction is truly a fundamental human experience. No wonder, then, that I wanted to share this book with my friends—but I also wanted to keep it for myself! If you don't read this book, you'll be left wondering what everyone (else) is talking about."—James H. Fowler, coauthor of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

"Here is a fun counterpoint to the explosion of examples showing that humans do not act in accordance with the predictions of standard rational models. But Kurzban is no defender of the standard models. Rather he seeks an understanding of why our actions may appear contradictory in particular contexts, but serve us well in others, and why that helps to improve our fitness for decision, if not always for a life of liberty."—Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics

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Editorial Reviews

Nature
Using humour and anecdotes, [Kurzban] reveals how conflict between the modules of the mind leads to contradictory beliefs, vacillating behaviours, broken moral boundaries and inflated egos. He argues that we should think of ourselves not as 'I' but as 'we'—a collection of interacting systems that are in constant conflict.
Scientific American Mind
Robert Kurzban believes that we are all hypocrites. But not to worry, he explains, hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. In his book Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, Kurzban asserts that the human mind consists of many specialized units, which do not always work together seamlessly. When this harmony breaks down, people often develop contradictory beliefs.
— Victoria Stern
Foreword Reviews
With wit, wisdom, and occasional hilarity, Robert Kurzban offers explanations for why we do the things we do, such as morally condemning the sale of human organs and locking the refrigerator at night to keep from snacking. . . . Kurzban touches on some complex topics in a manner that's both smart and accessible. He incorporates a plethora of psychological studies to support his theories but the narrative is never dry. . . . By challenging common assumptions about habits, morality, and preferences, Kurzban keeps readers both entertained and enlightened.
Chronicle of Higher Education
[Kurzban] argues that . . . internal conflicts are not limited to extreme cases; they occur in everyone's brains, leading to illogical beliefs and contradictory behaviors. That's not necessarily a bad thing, according to Kurzban. In fact, being selectively irrational may give us an evolutionary advantage.
— Kacie Glenn
Times Higher Education
Robert Kurzban has used his view of evolutionary psychology to pursue the concept of 'self' at the heart of both the discipline of psychology and the everyday understanding of human behavior—which surely is of interest to everyone. . . . The book itself is fresh. Kurzban's style is to take traditional questions and apparently reasonable positions and then demonstrate that reasonableness is actually only so under a set of assumptions—and that if they do not conform to the modularity hypothesis then we ought to rethink.
— Tom Dickins
Bioephemera blog
Highly recommended.
— Jessica Palmer
Reading the Markets blog
I'm sure that Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite will provoke a lot of controversy, and I'm certain that Kurzban's theses will require further refinement. But what a fascinating read!
— Brenda Jubin
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
[T]here is much that is valuable in Kurzban's book.
— Peter Carruthers
BBC Focus
We're all inconsistent and self-deceiving, says evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban. Our modular minds didn't evolve for consistency, but for patchwork multitasking. . . . As Kurzban says, understanding how and why we can be so 'ignorant, wrong, irrational, and hypocritical' may help us work towards a fairer society.
— Susan Blackmore
Scientific American Mind - Victoria Stern
Robert Kurzban believes that we are all hypocrites. But not to worry, he explains, hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. In his book Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, Kurzban asserts that the human mind consists of many specialized units, which do not always work together seamlessly. When this harmony breaks down, people often develop contradictory beliefs.
Chronicle of Higher Education - Kacie Glenn
[Kurzban] argues that . . . internal conflicts are not limited to extreme cases; they occur in everyone's brains, leading to illogical beliefs and contradictory behaviors. That's not necessarily a bad thing, according to Kurzban. In fact, being selectively irrational may give us an evolutionary advantage.
Times Higher Education - Tom Dickins
Robert Kurzban has used his view of evolutionary psychology to pursue the concept of 'self' at the heart of both the discipline of psychology and the everyday understanding of human behavior—which surely is of interest to everyone. . . . The book itself is fresh. Kurzban's style is to take traditional questions and apparently reasonable positions and then demonstrate that reasonableness is actually only so under a set of assumptions—and that if they do not conform to the modularity hypothesis then we ought to rethink.
Bioephemera blog - Jessica Palmer
Highly recommended.
Reading the Markets blog - Brenda Jubin
I'm sure that Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite will provoke a lot of controversy, and I'm certain that Kurzban's theses will require further refinement. But what a fascinating read!
Trends in Cognitive Sciences - Peter Carruthers
[T]here is much that is valuable in Kurzban's book.
BBC Focus - Susan Blackmore
We're all inconsistent and self-deceiving, says evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban. Our modular minds didn't evolve for consistency, but for patchwork multitasking. . . . As Kurzban says, understanding how and why we can be so 'ignorant, wrong, irrational, and hypocritical' may help us work towards a fairer society.
Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology - Haley M. Dillon and Rachael A. Carmen
Kurzban brilliantly (and often hilariously) breaks down the system of functional modules, explaining their existence through evolution, and their hypocrisy through a lack of communication. Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite delves into a part of psychology that has famously been ignored by many prominent members in the field.
From the Publisher
"Bolstered by recent studies and research, Kurzban makes a convincing and coherent . . . case for the modular mind, greatly helped by humorous footnotes and examples. . . . Taking on lofty topics, including truth and belief, Kurzban makes a successful case for changing—and remapping—the modern mind."—Publishers Weekly

"Using humour and anecdotes, [Kurzban] reveals how conflict between the modules of the mind leads to contradictory beliefs, vacillating behaviours, broken moral boundaries and inflated egos. He argues that we should think of ourselves not as 'I' but as 'we'—a collection of interacting systems that are in constant conflict."—Nature

"Robert Kurzban believes that we are all hypocrites. But not to worry, he explains, hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. In his book Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, Kurzban asserts that the human mind consists of many specialized units, which do not always work together seamlessly. When this harmony breaks down, people often develop contradictory beliefs."—Victoria Stern, Scientific American Mind

"Kurzban is a luminary in the growing discipline of evolutionary psychology. . . . [P]rovocative. . . . Kurzban devotes much space to explicating and demonstrating ways in which his theory plays out in our everyday lives."—Library Journal

"With wit, wisdom, and occasional hilarity, Robert Kurzban offers explanations for why we do the things we do, such as morally condemning the sale of human organs and locking the refrigerator at night to keep from snacking. . . . Kurzban touches on some complex topics in a manner that's both smart and accessible. He incorporates a plethora of psychological studies to support his theories but the narrative is never dry. . . . By challenging common assumptions about habits, morality, and preferences, Kurzban keeps readers both entertained and enlightened."—Foreword Reviews

"[Kurzban] argues that . . . internal conflicts are not limited to extreme cases; they occur in everyone's brains, leading to illogical beliefs and contradictory behaviors. That's not necessarily a bad thing, according to Kurzban. In fact, being selectively irrational may give us an evolutionary advantage."—Kacie Glenn, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Robert Kurzban has used his view of evolutionary psychology to pursue the concept of 'self' at the heart of both the discipline of psychology and the everyday understanding of human behavior—which surely is of interest to everyone. . . . The book itself is fresh. Kurzban's style is to take traditional questions and apparently reasonable positions and then demonstrate that reasonableness is actually only so under a set of assumptions—and that if they do not conform to the modularity hypothesis then we ought to rethink."—Tom Dickins, Times Higher Education

"Highly recommended."—Jessica Palmer, Bioephemera blog

"I'm sure that Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite will provoke a lot of controversy, and I'm certain that Kurzban's theses will require further refinement. But what a fascinating read!"—Brenda Jubin, Reading the Markets blog

"[T]here is much that is valuable in Kurzban's book."—Peter Carruthers, Trends in Cognitive Sciences
"We're all inconsistent and self-deceiving, says evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban. Our modular minds didn't evolve for consistency, but for patchwork multitasking. . . . As Kurzban says, understanding how and why we can be so 'ignorant, wrong, irrational, and hypocritical' may help us work towards a fairer society."—Susan Blackmore, BBC Focus

"Kurzban brilliantly (and often hilariously) breaks down the system of functional modules, explaining their existence through evolution, and their hypocrisy through a lack of communication. Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite delves into a part of psychology that has famously been ignored by many prominent members in the field."—Haley M. Dillon and Rachael A. Carmen, Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology

Publishers Weekly
Mod makes a comeback in an entertaining explanation of brain functioning that cuts the two-hemispheres theory down to size and minces the mind into modules. Coming from a background in evolutionary psychology, Kurzban suggests that the human mind is not the unified operator of actions contributing to survival and success, as many claim and even more assume, but rather a multi-faceted system of functioning parts that are not always on the same side-or even aware of the same information. The modules perform different, often separate, functions, which can account for confusing, inconsistent, and apparently contradictory behavior and speech. Bolstered by recent studies and research, Kurzban makes a convincing and coherent, though hardly comprehensive, case for the modular mind, greatly helped by humorous footnotes and examples. Despite the first-time author's near absolution of hypocrites, promotion of ignorance, comparisons of humans to machines, and criticism of moral stances on abortion and drugs, his most controversial statements lie in the realm of the self; indeed, conventional understanding of a "self" ceases to even be plausible with the modular mind theory. Taking on lofty topics, including truth and belief, Kurzban makes a successful case for changing-and remapping-the modern mind.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Kurzban (psychology, Univ. of Pennsylvania) is a luminary in the growing discipline of evolutionary psychology, which focuses on ways in which evolutionary adaptation accounts for the nature of human mental capacities. In this provocative book sporting ten chapters with titles like "Consistently Inconsistent," "Evolution and the Fragmented Brain," and "Psychological Propaganda," Kurzban argues that "the brain consists of a large number of specialized systems, or modules, with various functions associated with solving our ancestors' adaptive problems." Human brains not only have evolved but are also composed of numerous "modular systems," which means that there is no unified brain or self. Kurzban devotes much space to explicating and demonstrating ways in which his theory plays out in our everyday lives. VERDICT As long as readers can get past the author's breezy tone, fans of books like Daniel C. Dennett's Consciousness Explained will be particularly intrigued by Kurzban's contributions to the subject. An important scholarly text that is also accessible to sophisticated lay readers.—Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691154398
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/27/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 403,712
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Kurzban is associate professor of psychology and founder of the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2008, he won the inaugural Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution from the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue 1
Chapter 1: Consistently Inconsistent 4
Chapter 2: Evolution and the Fragmented Brain 23
Chapter 3: Who Is "I"? 45
Chapter 4: Modular Me 57
Chapter 5: The Truth Hurts 76
Chapter 6: Psychological Propaganda 98
Chapter 7: Self-Deception 132
Chapter 8: Self-Control 151
Chapter 9: Morality and Contradictions 186
Chapter 10: Morality Is for the Birds 206
Epilogue 218
Notes 221
References 245
Index 267

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