Our species, it appears, is hardwired to get things wrong in myriad different ways. Why did recipients of a loan offer accept a higher rate of interest when a pretty woman's face was printed on the flyer? Why did one poll on immigration find the most despised aliens were ones from a group that did not exist? What made four of the Air Force's best pilots fly their planes, in formation, straight into the ground? Why does giving someone power make him more likely to chew with his mouth open and pick his nose? And why is your sister going out with that biker dude?
In fact, our cognitive, logical, and romantic failures may be a fair price for our extraordinary success as a species - they are the necessary cost of our adaptability. Michael and Ellen Kaplan swoop effortlessly across neurochemistry, behavioral economics, and evolutionary biology, among other disciplines, to answer, with both clarity and wit, the questions above and larger ones about what it means to be human.
NOTE: Some changes to the original text have been made with the authors' approval.
©2009 Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"The mother-son co-authors...turn their considerable authorial skills and wit to human behavior, from our isolated cave-dwelling ancestors to today's globalized, interconnected world... Gourmet reading - rich in ideas, global references and amusing and provocative examples, served with great style." (Kirkus Reviews)
I've recently read/listened-to half a dozen good books about human cognitive bias, including Ariely's "Predictably Irrational", Tavris & Aronson's "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)", and Chabris & Simons' "The Invisible Gorilla". However, this book is my favorite. It's concise, comprehensive, and it kept me entertained from start to finish. Perceptual, memory and reasoning biases are discussed. The authors even touch on philosophy.
To me, the only weakness of the book is that, while each chapter is takes a particular cognitive phenomenon as a theme, there's not a strong structure across the entire book. This made it a little more difficult for me to recall everything that was discussed. On the other hand, if you're like me, you'll want to listen to this book all over again.
I have not read the print version yet, although I did purchase a print copy to read and annotate after listening to the audio version.
Listening to this book and the authors' explanations of why we humans behave the way we do (often badly!) explained so much about what I have seen in the school yard, in the halls of political power, and in the work place. This book gave me the words to understand and overcome some of the pervasive unpleasantness that surrounds so many social interactions. And a road map to personally make those necessarily unpleasant interactions more pleasant.
Far from feeling like being human is a runaway freight train of bad choices, somehow genetically programmed and inevitably irresponsible on both a small scale and a grand scale, this book gave me great hope. I think the pivotal idea for me was distinguishing between biological evolution and social evolution. The latter, of course, more rapid and plastic than the former.
This book gave me great hope for the future of human kind and our essential 'humanity'. And I mean that, humanity, in a good way!
I wish I could get my college age children to read this book. It would be an antidote to cynicism and formulaic approaches to relationships both personal and professional.
Think you're a rational, reasonable human being? Think again. The Kaplans explore the many psychological, cultural and societal phenomena which influence the human thinking process. All too often we are oblivious to these influences, believing our decisions and actions are based on objectively verifiable "reality." A fascinating insight into the operation of the human mind.
My preference for a good story is something totally unusual and not run of the mill stuff. Give me something I haven't heard before.
I love all these human science and behavioral books and this one ranks right up there. Interesting look at human behavior.
An enlightened ascetic who loves language and learning.
The book, Bozo Sapiens, by the Kaplan couple exemplifies how lewd, lame, and lugubrious learned persons can be. Listen to the book only if you can bear being disappointed by the irredeemable depravity of humankind, the authors included. They so deserve each other....
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