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

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We're all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind's design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they do We're all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind's design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don't always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves. This modular, evolutionary psychological view of the mind undermines deeply held intuitions about ourselves, as well as a range of scientific theories that require a self with consistent beliefs and preferences. Modularity suggests that there is no I. Instead, each of us is a contentious we--a collection of discrete but interacting systems whose constant conflicts shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world. In clear language, full of wit and rich in examples, Kurzban explains the roots and implications of our inconsistent minds, and why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else is a hypocrite.


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We're all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind's design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they do We're all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind's design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don't always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves. This modular, evolutionary psychological view of the mind undermines deeply held intuitions about ourselves, as well as a range of scientific theories that require a self with consistent beliefs and preferences. Modularity suggests that there is no I. Instead, each of us is a contentious we--a collection of discrete but interacting systems whose constant conflicts shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world. In clear language, full of wit and rich in examples, Kurzban explains the roots and implications of our inconsistent minds, and why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else is a hypocrite.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    Uncle Walt said it all when he quipped: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes". If you've ever wondered how someone can say one thing and do another (i.e. be a total hypocrite). The answer may be that there's more than one them. A lot more than one. Don't feel bad for them though. Because the same could be said about you, me and everyone else. According to modularity theory, who we are and what we do depends on which competing mental module wi Uncle Walt said it all when he quipped: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes". If you've ever wondered how someone can say one thing and do another (i.e. be a total hypocrite). The answer may be that there's more than one them. A lot more than one. Don't feel bad for them though. Because the same could be said about you, me and everyone else. According to modularity theory, who we are and what we do depends on which competing mental module wins the struggle for dominance in a given situation. These modules evolved for different reasons and are often working at crossed purposes. They can have very different agendas and elicit very different types of behaviors. So you no longer have to be even one bit surprised the next time an anti gay politician or tella-evangelist gets busted with a male prostitute. Or the mayor of Toronto gets busted smoking crack. These are simply amplified, very public examples of the same kind of erratic, hypocritical behavior that everyone does pretty much all the time. There's a catch though. We're great at busting others at being hypocritical and literally terrible at seeing our own hypocritical behavior. That's why accountability is such a very good thing. In fact it's our only hope. I loved this book. In fact I really think just about everybody ought to read it. It's funny and smart and if you're unfamiliar with (good) evolutionary psychology, specifically modularity theory, than it may radically change the way you view human behavior (including your own). If "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" Dobzhansky (1973), and, assuming that mind is an emergent property of brain function (and it is), than nothing in PSYCHOLOGY makes sense except in the light of evolution either (and it doesn't). This book is flawed. It labors some points while underworking others. But it's (a) LOL funny, (b) thought provoking as hell, and (c) extremely clarifying and useful, particularly if you are confused about psychology (and you are, and so is everyone else, even the "experts", trust me). Its a first draft, of a corner of a map, that can lead us out of the tanged jukyard of incongruous mini theories that is psychology today (meaning the current state of the field-not the magazine). Read it, ditch the tired unified self model, and keep thinking function and module over time under selection pressure in the environment of evolutionary of adaptation, and see if things about psychology (that were formerly terribly confusing) don't start making a bit more sense. Great book!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Zu

    Overall, it's a pretty good read. And I am convinced by the modular model of the brain. That being said, I did find some of this research methodologies problematic. First of all, his approach to brain is completely instrumental. If the brain's function cannot bring reproductive advantage, then it must not be there. As a researcher, I think the author should know better than this. Many times, we find functions of certain organs (which can be the brain) accidents of evolution, in the sense that th Overall, it's a pretty good read. And I am convinced by the modular model of the brain. That being said, I did find some of this research methodologies problematic. First of all, his approach to brain is completely instrumental. If the brain's function cannot bring reproductive advantage, then it must not be there. As a researcher, I think the author should know better than this. Many times, we find functions of certain organs (which can be the brain) accidents of evolution, in the sense that they are spin-offs of strategies designed for other purposes but happen to also have unintended functions. Susan Gelman's book 'The Essential Child' is one example of how essentialism is the side effect of several important brain strategies to help us survive. Second, his interpretation of morality is way too simplistic to do any justice to the phenomenon itself. Even though I agree with him on that philosophers do not really know much better than the rest of us on morality, I strongly disagree with his naive assertion that morality is just a strategy to constrain others to reduce competition. Nevertheless, the modular model of the brain is a fantastic idea and something we should seriously study further. It is also a good idea to give up the stupid study on self-esteem and delve into what actually can help us be a better person instead of feeling like a good person.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steven Doyle

    I was looking forward to settling down with this book as I find certain aspects of evolutionary psychology interesting and I hold a strong believe that the human brain is not a unitary thing. I went in expecting dinner and drinks with Zooey Deschanel and instead I was gang raped by all the male members from the cast of The Big Bang Theory. It is a truly awful, awful book. It is a bloated, repetitive ramble that at times it seems the author is making a painfully transparent attempts to increase hi I was looking forward to settling down with this book as I find certain aspects of evolutionary psychology interesting and I hold a strong believe that the human brain is not a unitary thing. I went in expecting dinner and drinks with Zooey Deschanel and instead I was gang raped by all the male members from the cast of The Big Bang Theory. It is a truly awful, awful book. It is a bloated, repetitive ramble that at times it seems the author is making a painfully transparent attempts to increase his word count at the behest of his publishers. He also commits what is a cardinal sin even for a first year undergrad, he cites wikipedia. He constantly uses semantics to confuse and obfuscate, using the momentum of this rhetoric to spit out yet another specious argument or half baked conclusion. He forever needlessly and inappropriately accuses all possible counter points to evolutionary psychology of subscribing to, or hinting towards, a ghost in the machine - they don't, they hint at consciousness and how that's kind of a big deal and a bit of mystery to everyone. Bloody everyone. Oh, and while we agree the brain is not a unitary thing, his massive modularity is mind boggling in its unfalsifiability to the point that there's an awful bang of psychoanalysis of it. Not so much in theory but in form and the untestable explanatory free for all it affords him. It's 3 in the morning and I'm tired and rambling. I started this on Sunday and it's now Tuesday. I wanted to finish as quick as possible because I wanted it out of my life since page 40 or so. Avoid.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Markus

    Kurzban's writing is crisp, clever and humorous, and he argues persuasively for some ideas that really shouldn't be all that surprising, if you've kept up with psychology and neuroscience lately. Basically, the self is an illusion, there are lots of different subroutines running all at once, and different circumstances will affect which parts of the brain are making the decisions. The part of the brain that speaks, the conscious mind, is often unaware of what the rest of the brain is doing, whic Kurzban's writing is crisp, clever and humorous, and he argues persuasively for some ideas that really shouldn't be all that surprising, if you've kept up with psychology and neuroscience lately. Basically, the self is an illusion, there are lots of different subroutines running all at once, and different circumstances will affect which parts of the brain are making the decisions. The part of the brain that speaks, the conscious mind, is often unaware of what the rest of the brain is doing, which allows people to hold inconsistent beliefs and behave hypocritically. Problematic concepts like self-control and self-deception are explained easily when the brain is understood this way. Human behavior and mental activity can seem paradoxical until they're explained with this modular framework. This should be fun and familiar material for anyone familiar with Gazzaniga's "Who's In Charge", Eagleman's "Incognito", or Pinker's "How The Mind Works". Sociology students, on the other hand, might be quick to trot out the same tired old accusations of determinism or reductionism, but they would be missing Kurzban's point entirely. The book sets out to explain exactly what its title suggests, and Kurzban does that masterfully. He points out how even smart people who know better cannot easily avoid drifting back into using language that implies some kind of soul, some kind of self, some homunculus inside our heads who is calling all the shots, and he uses clear, instructive examples to illustrate why this view is completely wrong. Hopefully Kurzban's refreshing, witty writing style will help persuade those who remain trapped in their Cartesian theater, searching for the ghost in the machine.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Clark Hays

    “Evolution doesn’t care if you’re happy…” This book just made it onto my list of all-time favorites. The author, an evolutionary psychologist, advances a powerful argument that the human mind is modular — a collection of systems designed (actually, shaped by evolution) for various adaptive reasons. These modules work alongside one another — occasionally in harmony, very often not — to help protect the vessel long enough for it to pass genetic material to the next generation. He painstakingly bui “Evolution doesn’t care if you’re happy…” This book just made it onto my list of all-time favorites. The author, an evolutionary psychologist, advances a powerful argument that the human mind is modular — a collection of systems designed (actually, shaped by evolution) for various adaptive reasons. These modules work alongside one another — occasionally in harmony, very often not — to help protect the vessel long enough for it to pass genetic material to the next generation. He painstakingly builds the argument with examples, anecdotes and research, leading the reader inexorably to embrace the modular concept. Some may be off-put by the deconstruction of self that shakes out of the theory, since “self,” he argues, is just another module — one of many, no better or worse — trying to keep things together and often receiving and acting upon incomplete or just flat out wrong information arriving from the various other modules. So if the mind is modular and self is illusory, (quoting author Dan Dennet, “selves are not things at all, but instead are explanatory fictions.”), how does that answer the question posed by the title? It turns out the modules are all grimly, resolutely focused on maximizing adaptive strategies for genetic success. That means surfacing strategically valuable hypocrisy, misguided, unwarranted and necessary personal exceptionalism, “other-controlling” morality schemes and more. He’s a terrific writer, funny, snarky (don’t miss the footnotes), self-deprecating and clearly an expert in the field, which makes this a great and illuminating read. If you’re not put off by concepts such as the brain being “just another piece of meat in your head” or that “self-esteem isn’t a cause of almost anything,” check out this book. I was hooked almost immediately. Well, at least the module that makes me think there is someone driving this particular collection of “explanatory fiction” I call my self was hooked.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Onda

    The mind is not a singleton but a rather a collection of processes which have a very specific function. This is the main argument put forth in the book and the art of putting displayed by Kurzban is both highly interesting and logically solid. The perspective to human morality that Kurzban offers in the last chapters of the book is rather new and surprising. Many of the things we instinctively think as moral are nothing more than evolutionary adaptations which, at the modern world and upon closer The mind is not a singleton but a rather a collection of processes which have a very specific function. This is the main argument put forth in the book and the art of putting displayed by Kurzban is both highly interesting and logically solid. The perspective to human morality that Kurzban offers in the last chapters of the book is rather new and surprising. Many of the things we instinctively think as moral are nothing more than evolutionary adaptations which, at the modern world and upon closer inspection, prove to be nothing but irrational beliefs (like how we think about abortion, polygamy and pushing people in train tracks to save others and the way we feel about these and being rather unable to provide a rational reasons to our judgements). Much of the book, however, builds the argument with lower level examples completely obliterating the notion of an unified mind. Being "lower level examples" doesn't mean that they're not though-provoking and hilarious. You can find an excellent summary of the book by Kaj Sotala here: http://lesswrong.com/tag/whyeveryoneh... The first chapter is available for free here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Taka

    Good but with a caveat. Though I appreciated and learned a great deal from the modular model of the mind Kurzban presents with humor, the author seems to me to be a classic case of a "specialist generalizing" (Frankl) and equating the mind to be "nothing but" an information processing device, not making any leeway for other interpretations/metaphors. The metaphor of the conscious self as a press secretary and propaganda machine is definitely illuminating and convincing, but I kept wondering if t Good but with a caveat. Though I appreciated and learned a great deal from the modular model of the mind Kurzban presents with humor, the author seems to me to be a classic case of a "specialist generalizing" (Frankl) and equating the mind to be "nothing but" an information processing device, not making any leeway for other interpretations/metaphors. The metaphor of the conscious self as a press secretary and propaganda machine is definitely illuminating and convincing, but I kept wondering if that's the ONLY prominent function of our conscious selves—Kurzban might have, in my humble opinion, placed a little too much emphasis on the propaganda aspect. I also didn't completely buy his analysis of the lack of self-deception's benefits other than the social ones. Other than the moments of frustration I had with what I took to be scientific myopia (or just plain scientism), his exposition of the modular mind is highly informative and valuable in understanding our brain.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan Slimmon

    I read this book as part of Robert Wright's Buddhism And Modern Psychology online course. I was excited to read it because I find fascinating the concept of consciousness as a sort of "press secretary" that evolved to explain our actions to others. This would tie consciousness to language in a nice, satisfying way. Unfortunately, in this book, Kurzban doesn't really elaborate on the "press secretary" concept. He spends a lot of time giving muddy exposition on psychological misconceptions about se I read this book as part of Robert Wright's Buddhism And Modern Psychology online course. I was excited to read it because I find fascinating the concept of consciousness as a sort of "press secretary" that evolved to explain our actions to others. This would tie consciousness to language in a nice, satisfying way. Unfortunately, in this book, Kurzban doesn't really elaborate on the "press secretary" concept. He spends a lot of time giving muddy exposition on psychological misconceptions about self-deception, and he does a lot of moral argumentation that doesn't seem related to his main point and doesn't really lead anywhere. I still have an intuition that the modular model of the mind is right and that the experience of selfhood is just an illusion. But Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite doesn't solidify or add nuance to these ideas in any appreciable way.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Krista Evilsizor

    Good overall thesis about the modular mind and hypocrisy but sloppy execution. With all of its informality and condescension the book came across more as a 220 page apology for the author's actions (I mean, seriously he apologized for them twice to his wife and once to his parents) than a scholarly work. I would have expected better from Princeton Press, but Kurzban seemed to include enough lauding over Steven Pinkner to get away with meandering text, far too much use of Frogger as an example, a Good overall thesis about the modular mind and hypocrisy but sloppy execution. With all of its informality and condescension the book came across more as a 220 page apology for the author's actions (I mean, seriously he apologized for them twice to his wife and once to his parents) than a scholarly work. I would have expected better from Princeton Press, but Kurzban seemed to include enough lauding over Steven Pinkner to get away with meandering text, far too much use of Frogger as an example, and not enough hypothesis proving.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Interesting book about the modular mind concept, very clear and sometimes quite funny look at our "mind" and just who is in actually in control. Before reading the book the idea just seems absurd, but by the books end I must say that I'm pretty firmly convinced. The author shows through numerous studies that not only is a mind made up of modules pauible but really quite probable. Interesting book about the modular mind concept, very clear and sometimes quite funny look at our "mind" and just who is in actually in control. Before reading the book the idea just seems absurd, but by the books end I must say that I'm pretty firmly convinced. The author shows through numerous studies that not only is a mind made up of modules pauible but really quite probable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The book starts off strong. The modular model of the mind is certainly appealing, and I wish Kurzban spent a little more time with the Braitenberg vehicles and the modules that drive their behavior, since that analogy helped me understand his model better. Shortcomings in the model's explanatory power quickly show up, however: his arguments for a "press secretary" module, while interesting, leave something to be desired. I got the sense that he was either leaving something out for the lay audien The book starts off strong. The modular model of the mind is certainly appealing, and I wish Kurzban spent a little more time with the Braitenberg vehicles and the modules that drive their behavior, since that analogy helped me understand his model better. Shortcomings in the model's explanatory power quickly show up, however: his arguments for a "press secretary" module, while interesting, leave something to be desired. I got the sense that he was either leaving something out for the lay audience or simply hadn't thought through the chains of inference from an impartial perspective. The middle chapters drag a bit. Am I interested in the squabbles of scientists? No, not really. It read almost like a gossip mag, and while I understand that this section was intended to be illustrative of the concepts, the tactic was more a distraction than anything else. And then the example of polygyny in bird populations felt contrived and, again, weakly reasoned and explained. The redeeming features that made this book worthwhile were (1) the title, which netted me several knowing nods of approval from fellow cafe-goers who asked about what I was reading, (2) the examples of game-theoretic scenarios in which lack of information or even wrong information is an advantage, and (3) the really quite elegant, if poorly expressed, model of limited willpower as an adaptation resulting from the opportunity cost of of using a limited resource, namely higher-order cognition, without an adequate offsetting reward rather than simple energy expenditure in the form of glucose as theorized by Gailliot & Baumeister and others.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    A quick and witty introduction to evolutionary psychology. The author suggests that instead of thinking of the mind as a single entity whose purpose is to produce a sense of self existing within a unified view of the world, that our brains may be more similar to the various apps running on a smart phone, which run more or less independently of one another, and do not always produce consistent results. It is because of these often contradictory app products that we are all "hypocrites." If the au A quick and witty introduction to evolutionary psychology. The author suggests that instead of thinking of the mind as a single entity whose purpose is to produce a sense of self existing within a unified view of the world, that our brains may be more similar to the various apps running on a smart phone, which run more or less independently of one another, and do not always produce consistent results. It is because of these often contradictory app products that we are all "hypocrites." If the author's premise is even partially correct, this will demolish the old Cartesian view in which "I think, therefore I am" - because there is no "I" to do the thinking. A highly provocative and at times laugh-out-loud read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Burak

    Incredibly persuasive, I am sold. Maybe a little bit repetitive but definitely not boring - Kurzban has a good sense of humor and does a great job of presenting his view of the mind. I also loved how careful he was at interpreting evolutionary psychology, which can lead you to foolish statements otherwise. If you are a libertarian, you will enjoy reading the epilogue. It explains why we tend to prevent other people from doing things which don't harm anybody (drugs, prostitution, etc.), even thou Incredibly persuasive, I am sold. Maybe a little bit repetitive but definitely not boring - Kurzban has a good sense of humor and does a great job of presenting his view of the mind. I also loved how careful he was at interpreting evolutionary psychology, which can lead you to foolish statements otherwise. If you are a libertarian, you will enjoy reading the epilogue. It explains why we tend to prevent other people from doing things which don't harm anybody (drugs, prostitution, etc.), even though we seem to advocate for liberty and freedom. Don't take this amiss, he doesn't argue whether an act is moral or not, it is about why people are not consistent with their principles which they like to talk about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    This book gets five stars due to the elegance in which the theory is presented. Nice touch of humor too! I was directed to this book over a year ago via Robert Wright's course titled Modern Psychology and Buddhism. I should have read it back then. The modular theory of mind ties up many loose ends in psychology and meshes nicely with the Buddhist concept of annatta. In the words of Steven Pinker, "Robert Kurzban is one of the best evolutionary psychologists of his generation: he is distinctive n This book gets five stars due to the elegance in which the theory is presented. Nice touch of humor too! I was directed to this book over a year ago via Robert Wright's course titled Modern Psychology and Buddhism. I should have read it back then. The modular theory of mind ties up many loose ends in psychology and meshes nicely with the Buddhist concept of annatta. In the words of Steven Pinker, "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."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    A rhetorically aggressive introduction to the modular theory of the mind with a few eye-opening insights.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jurij Fedorov

    Pro: I think we can all agree that the points made in this book are very intelligent, great and scientifically valid points. The science is spot on and the points are new and at times very clear. He goes to great lengths explaining how the brain works. And for people new to psychology this can very well be their introduction to the field as it is accessible and down to earth. I understand that the brain is not just split in 2 parts - one rational and one automatic. Of cause that simplification n Pro: I think we can all agree that the points made in this book are very intelligent, great and scientifically valid points. The science is spot on and the points are new and at times very clear. He goes to great lengths explaining how the brain works. And for people new to psychology this can very well be their introduction to the field as it is accessible and down to earth. I understand that the brain is not just split in 2 parts - one rational and one automatic. Of cause that simplification never made any sense. Why would the brain only consist of 2 modules? What kind of evolutionary selection pressure would select 2 individual and very different modules? Con: I really wish the cons in this book were not that numerous. Because the science is good and I learned quite a bit from it. But I don't agree with Steven Pinker's and co. review on the back of the book. I don't see the humor or the greatness in it. I understand that those were jokes but I did not laugh a single time reading it. And he used maybe 100+ analogies in this book. And most of them are just bad and boring. I would much rather have read a book where he explains how the brain works than a book where Kurzban helps me understand how the brain works by comparing its modules to programming languages. We have more and more programming languages each evolution/time because we have more and more different problems to solve. I get this, and this is also why the brain consist of many modules and why the human brain especially has a lot of different modules - a few hundred thousands? But it's not the best analogy as programming languages are made to create different software - software is what the brain is. Programming languages are just what evolution works with, neurons. And some of the other analogies are not great either. This book does describe a few studies. But mostly it is a simplification of the field. People very knowledgeable in psychology (evolutionary) will probably find this book a bit too simplistic. People new to the field might just find the analogies useful and not tedious. I somehow think that the preferable reader for this book is an academic American who does not study psychology. Many other kind of readers will wonder why he didn't spend a few months extra editing it down.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dolf van der Haven

    Triggered by a Coursera course on Buddhism and Evolutionary Psychology, I was looking forward to reading this book, as I hoped it would give me a solid overview of the latter subject. Several things put me off, though: - The author goes out of his way stating that the modular view of the mind is so very plausible and cannot imagine anyone thinking otherwise. This narrow-minded view of the subject gets annoying after a few dozen pages. - The author actively avoids answering some fundamental question Triggered by a Coursera course on Buddhism and Evolutionary Psychology, I was looking forward to reading this book, as I hoped it would give me a solid overview of the latter subject. Several things put me off, though: - The author goes out of his way stating that the modular view of the mind is so very plausible and cannot imagine anyone thinking otherwise. This narrow-minded view of the subject gets annoying after a few dozen pages. - The author actively avoids answering some fundamental questions, such as what is meant with consciousness. Or what is meant with the mind in the first place. Or how all those modules are coordinated. This is not only annoying, it also erodes the foundation of the premise the author is trying to make. - Too many tangential examples make the reader stray away from the core message. I may have a short attention span, but he should have tried to be less entertaining and more focused on doing a convincing job explaining his model of the mind. - The mechanistic view of the mind as a computer programme with subroutines (but without a central unifying "Main" routine!) and the strict lonking of "mind" to "brain" really put me off as a willingly narrow-minded approach. Overall I can live with a model of the mind as a collection of modules that do or do not exchange information and do or do not have a central "I" that governs them. I have not come across any actual proof why this would be the right way of describing mental and emotional phenomena, though. The author does not proof anything, but uses his modular mind as a model to explain phenomena that can also be explained in various other, less cumbersome ways.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Greg Varnado

    A perspective on modularity of the human mind A thought provoking read about modularity and evolution of the human mind. Reading this book can be helpful in understanding why everyone “else” engages in seemingly contradictory behaviors.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris Branch

    I realize there are various well-respected evolutionary biologists and other smart people who have serious criticisms of evolutionary psychology, but I have to say that I find it very convincing, and Kurzban's explanation of it is one of the best I've read. Even if his description of our minds' modules turns out not to be precisely correct in all details, it seems clear that something like this must be the truth. It explains so much about why people act the way they do, and ties in so elegantly I realize there are various well-respected evolutionary biologists and other smart people who have serious criticisms of evolutionary psychology, but I have to say that I find it very convincing, and Kurzban's explanation of it is one of the best I've read. Even if his description of our minds' modules turns out not to be precisely correct in all details, it seems clear that something like this must be the truth. It explains so much about why people act the way they do, and ties in so elegantly with other explanatory aspects of evolution, it just seems very unlikely that it's wrong. It may be difficult or impossible to test EP hypotheses right now, but that may not always be the case. As our understanding of the brain and its functions increases, I expect EP to rest on firmer ground as its concepts are refined. For now, this book is an excellent place to learn more about current thinking on the subject.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Taylor

    This is the best book that I have read in years. I became a firm believer in evolutionary psychology after reading this book. I agree with the author that the mind is made up many fairly independent modules. I was convinced that we are mistaken to think that the mind that does the talking is really us. Therefore, asking someone what they prefer is a mistake. Therefore, I agree with the author that there is no true self. Therefore, no self-interest in the economic sense. Therefore, the whole stud This is the best book that I have read in years. I became a firm believer in evolutionary psychology after reading this book. I agree with the author that the mind is made up many fairly independent modules. I was convinced that we are mistaken to think that the mind that does the talking is really us. Therefore, asking someone what they prefer is a mistake. Therefore, I agree with the author that there is no true self. Therefore, no self-interest in the economic sense. Therefore, the whole study of behavioural economics that uses psychological studies to demonstrate that people are not rational is not really very interesting even though there are many books on the subject.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jon Mountjoy

    This is a difficult book to read. The book is far too long - needlessly so. It's a little repetitive in places (okay, I get your modular mind - no need to drill it home so many times), and seems to want to be two books: one on brain modularity, one one being a hypocrite. The story telling was at times flippant, and occasionally felt arrogant - so much so that I noticed. While the author is thorough in pointing to references to support statements, I didn't feel the main theses of the book were we This is a difficult book to read. The book is far too long - needlessly so. It's a little repetitive in places (okay, I get your modular mind - no need to drill it home so many times), and seems to want to be two books: one on brain modularity, one one being a hypocrite. The story telling was at times flippant, and occasionally felt arrogant - so much so that I noticed. While the author is thorough in pointing to references to support statements, I didn't feel the main theses of the book were well established. It's as if the book is a synthesis of what he believes, not what we know.

  22. 5 out of 5

    William Berry

    Have you ever wondered why you are so complicated? I just finished Robert Kruzban’s, “Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite. I absolutely loved it. I was actively reading three books (and had another two or three started but put aside) when I began it. Within a short period I read it exclusively until I was finished. Those who are the least bit familiar with me know two things about me: I believe mindfulness is the cure to almost everything, and I think the human mind is full of shit. A few years a Have you ever wondered why you are so complicated? I just finished Robert Kruzban’s, “Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite. I absolutely loved it. I was actively reading three books (and had another two or three started but put aside) when I began it. Within a short period I read it exclusively until I was finished. Those who are the least bit familiar with me know two things about me: I believe mindfulness is the cure to almost everything, and I think the human mind is full of shit. A few years ago I took a Coursera course called, Buddhism and Psychology. There I was introduced to the modular theory of the mind (an evolutionary theory). I immediately saw (with the course instructor and his guests help) its application to mindfulness. This book magnified that fourfold. In his book, Kurzban puts forth the argument that evolution has led to the creation of a modular mind. In a philosophical dialogue style he puts forth his argument and why it makes the most sense. In doing so he provides a plethora of examples of how the mind fails us, or at the least, fails to accurately reflect reality or logic in much of thinking. In short, he explains why we are so complicated, and why everyone else is a hypocrite (including why though we are, it isn’t as noticed). You may not like his explanation (I loved the quote, “…when I’m done you can worry a lot about whether the kind of explanation I favor doesn’t apply to humans for some reason you’ll make up but is wrong”. He sprinkles humor throughout the book, which is welcome as the material is, at times, a bit mind-blowing. Once or twice a year I read a book I fall in love with. This is definitely one of those books.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ozzie Gooen

    I think the thesis of this book is very original and important. There is little else like it. It reminds me a lot of Elephant in the Brain, but came out first and definitely had unique things to say. I found the writing style a bit awkward, and have a hard time making out what to think of all the evidence. However, I would guess that the main theses will stand the test of time. I really want to see more books like this.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Ah, the modular mind. Did you ever wonder where your MIND is? Is it a part of your brain? Does it exist "outside" you somewhere? How do we make decisions and how can it be that we hold contradictory views sometimes? Why can't we be consistent? And why, on earth, does it matter what the opinions of other people are? Kurzban gives us one explanation: the modular mind. Our brain is not one big lump (we actually already know that because we've seen the MRIs that show the various parts of the brain th Ah, the modular mind. Did you ever wonder where your MIND is? Is it a part of your brain? Does it exist "outside" you somewhere? How do we make decisions and how can it be that we hold contradictory views sometimes? Why can't we be consistent? And why, on earth, does it matter what the opinions of other people are? Kurzban gives us one explanation: the modular mind. Our brain is not one big lump (we actually already know that because we've seen the MRIs that show the various parts of the brain that light up during various functions), but, according to Kurzban, a set of modules that work together in much the same way that the various functions do. Not to say there are little blocks of something in the brain. It's still electrical impulses covering the brain and lighting up different area. But each of these bundled reactions controls a different way we look at things. Overall, we have one "executive" function that allows inputs from some of the other module and not always others at the same time. He calls this our "press secretary" and it's what comes out of our mouth. It has an evolutionary function and Kurzban shows us how in this book. It's a fascinating idea and seems quite right. I read the book because I'm taking a Coursera course on Buddhism and Modern Psychology. We've been studying the "not-self" and this book was mentioned as a source showing how modern psychology agrees with Buddhism that no separate "self" exists. I won't get into the background; you can research it for yourself. But the book helps understand how we can develop a sense of "self" that is separate from the rest of us. It also explains how we can hold certain views and yet not be consistent. If we believe in equality, how are gay people different and not allowed the rights the rest have? How can we believe that abortion is wrong and yet think that people should be able to control their own lives and do what they want? And why, on earth, can't we explain why we hold certain views? It seemed to me that Kurzban belabored the point sometimes without making his ideas clearer. It's almost like he has this wonderful idea and can give you the basics, but hasn't quite figured out the details or can't quite express them. However, the book is well worth reading whether you agree with his ideas or not.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    First 2 chapters & prologue: 5 stars. Last two chapters & epilogue: 1.5 stars. Everything in between: 3.5. Started off as a great book. Chapters 1 and 2 blew my mind in some very specific ways, giving me new ways to think about certain problems I've been rolling around in my thoughts and notes. Then it became somewhat of a chore to read, though his voice remained entertaining and ironic in a way I enjoyed. What really lost me though, was the morality cases that applied all this modularity and hypoc First 2 chapters & prologue: 5 stars. Last two chapters & epilogue: 1.5 stars. Everything in between: 3.5. Started off as a great book. Chapters 1 and 2 blew my mind in some very specific ways, giving me new ways to think about certain problems I've been rolling around in my thoughts and notes. Then it became somewhat of a chore to read, though his voice remained entertaining and ironic in a way I enjoyed. What really lost me though, was the morality cases that applied all this modularity and hypocrisy to topical moral examples. I suppose I'm disappointed because I was expecting something that blew my mind, and instead, it preached to the choir. Maybe if I'd had something against prostitution, recreational drug use, incest between consenting adults, or abortion, this would have been more revelatory. I wanted him to spring a "Gotcha!" on me that would have called me out on something I'd never thought of before. But I was basically left to make my own observations about my hypocrisies, which I could do just fine before reading this book. In particular, especially after the bird discussion about how morally judging others helps improve our own reproductive chances, I couldn't understand why he didn't even once mention anything about queerness and how it relates to modularity, since THAT'S the least obvious thing to condemn in your competitors. I can make up my own neat little theories about how certain modules evolved and interacted to produce queer identities, as well as my own theories about why a population might be motivated to condemn those identities, and of course, what possible benefits those identities might bestow upon their communities, but... Kurzban's the one writing this book. He's the one who should account for these questions and address them. Especially considering he mentions many times how certain things CAN'T stay perpetuated in a species if they lead to less offspring. Somehow, however, he only remembered to include a couple throwaway mentions about how gay marriage, of all things, is a thing that exists.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Max

    This book had some excellent points, and it was a good introduction to the theory of the modular mind. It was a bit repetitive and, at points, less insightful than I was expecting. The thesis: "This book is an attempt to explain why we act the way we act, and, perhaps partly in our defense, to show that if we are wrong a lot, well, being right isn't everything... It is about contradictions. It's about how you can, at one and the same time want to go for a training fun and also want to stay in be This book had some excellent points, and it was a good introduction to the theory of the modular mind. It was a bit repetitive and, at points, less insightful than I was expecting. The thesis: "This book is an attempt to explain why we act the way we act, and, perhaps partly in our defense, to show that if we are wrong a lot, well, being right isn't everything... It is about contradictions. It's about how you can, at one and the same time want to go for a training fun and also want to stay in bed on a cold November morning. It's about how you can, at one and the same time, during a severe economic downturn, both want to know how your retirement fund is doing and also not want to know how your retirement fund is doing." The main argument is that there is not a single, unitary "self" and that, rather, the mind is made up of many modules, all with their own demands. There is therefore no "me" in control of my mind; there are a bunch of competing modules, and this explains human hypocrisy, along with several other aspects of human behavior. The point is well articulated throughout the course of the book. although sometimes the author gets sucked in making the same arguments over and over in only a slightly different form. Very interesting read nevertheless.

  27. 5 out of 5

    a hooded figure from your friendly neighbourhood dog park

    I really liked this book! It meanders a bit here and there, but overall does a very good job of explaining such a counter-intuitive concept with humour and accessibly enough. Definitely some nice food for thought. "The mind is the product of modules working together, often managing to look so good that, yes, they can be confused under certain conditions for something that conforms to some definition of rational. But it's best not to be confused by this illusion. There is no reason, in principle, I really liked this book! It meanders a bit here and there, but overall does a very good job of explaining such a counter-intuitive concept with humour and accessibly enough. Definitely some nice food for thought. "The mind is the product of modules working together, often managing to look so good that, yes, they can be confused under certain conditions for something that conforms to some definition of rational. But it's best not to be confused by this illusion. There is no reason, in principle, to start with monolithic perfection and rationality when studying human cognition and behavior. The mind is not a machine that evolved to some sort of idealized neo-classical economic perfection, with a few wrenches in the works. The mind evolved, bit by bit, over time, and the scientific study of the mind ought to respect this fact." "My own view is that while hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind, it makes for bad policy. If people say that they are in favor of liberty, failing to hold them accountable for the view that others’ liberties should be constrained on pain of punishment gives them a blank check to use authority in any way at all. The whole point of agreeing on the principles that should guide rules is to limit the rules. To allow unchecked exceptions and inconsistencies is to undermine the agreements that we have made on the rules that govern us."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Manuela

    What a fascinating read! Yes, it is rather obvious that the brain is a set of modules, each performing a specific set of functions. But what does the module-brain imply for our moral actions, our perceptions of ourselves and others? Can it be explained with evolution? And how can we really get the idea that there is no "I"? Getting used to the ideas in everyday life is a matter practice, "I" guess, and there is a lot to take from Buddhism. Still, even language has evolved around the intuition of What a fascinating read! Yes, it is rather obvious that the brain is a set of modules, each performing a specific set of functions. But what does the module-brain imply for our moral actions, our perceptions of ourselves and others? Can it be explained with evolution? And how can we really get the idea that there is no "I"? Getting used to the ideas in everyday life is a matter practice, "I" guess, and there is a lot to take from Buddhism. Still, even language has evolved around the intuition of one self. Oh well, talking is just a bunch of modules in action anyway :) In any case, the book's arguments are a pretty good set of excuses for being inconsistent, self deceiving, and lacking self control - because there are no such things! Also very appealing is the last chapter's Darwinian explanation of why we have likely evolved to be polygynous (see "Sex at Dawn" by don't remember who) while at the same time having a strong majority of people - and rules with it - that condemn such behavior; and why both sides of the debate often don't even know why they feel the way they do. Great read. Parts of me feel like reading it all over again immediately.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christian Layow

    I really enjoyed this book, especially the analogy of the press secretary to describe the language "module" of the brain. I think we tend to mistake this part of our mind with the sole decision making function of our lives, to our own detriment and suffering. He makes a great case that these various modules are not completely integrated with all the other functions or "modules" of our brains. Like any "press secretary" he/she is only provided the information needed in order to communicate with t I really enjoyed this book, especially the analogy of the press secretary to describe the language "module" of the brain. I think we tend to mistake this part of our mind with the sole decision making function of our lives, to our own detriment and suffering. He makes a great case that these various modules are not completely integrated with all the other functions or "modules" of our brains. Like any "press secretary" he/she is only provided the information needed in order to communicate with the public (all the people in our lives), but should never be confused with the president. And as a matter in this evolutionary psychology theory there is no president. Sometimes we eat the chocolate cake and enjoy ourselves, other times we say no for better future health and fitness. And we need not declare in words to anyone else, or even ourselves, why we have made this decision. This book also turned me on to some other thinkers writing about the same ideas, like Daniel Dennett, who I was aware of but hadn't read anything of his as yet.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Kurzban did a remarkably good job making evolutionary psychology and the theory of a modular mind accessible to a lay reader (a.k.a., me). I found myself disappointed, though, that the topics in the subtitle (evolution and the modular mind) got far more attention than the subjects implied by the title itself (e.g., hypocrisy, moral contradictions, moral condemnations). Also, the tone of the writing could be jarring at times, particularly in the snark employed in critiquing proponents of a unifie Kurzban did a remarkably good job making evolutionary psychology and the theory of a modular mind accessible to a lay reader (a.k.a., me). I found myself disappointed, though, that the topics in the subtitle (evolution and the modular mind) got far more attention than the subjects implied by the title itself (e.g., hypocrisy, moral contradictions, moral condemnations). Also, the tone of the writing could be jarring at times, particularly in the snark employed in critiquing proponents of a unified self, as well as in the footnotes, which I think were meant to convey a Mary-Roach-style whimsy but fell short of the mark. Stylistic concerns aside, though, I appreciated Kurzban's Darwinian critique of a singular, static Self, which resonates with a myriad of theories in other disciplines (e.g., Buddhist philosophies, queer theories). This book was worth reading for the chance to make those connections.

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