Praise for Why everyone (else) is a hypocrite
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
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.