- Paperback: 258 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Ed edition (January 8, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465032346
- ISBN-13: 978-0465032341
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life First Trade Paper Ed Edition
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Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; Author of Stumbling on Happiness
Several decades ago, Doug Kenrick married evolutionary biology to social psychology and he has been a leader in this important field ever since. Unlike many scientists, he sees the big picture and writes with humor, wisdom, and verve. I'm eager to read his book!”
Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University; Author of Predictably Irrational
Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life helps us understand our complex, odd and quirky nature. It is a fascinating journey that brought us here and Douglas Kenrick is a master in helping us understand our real nature.”
Kenrick's gift for speaking directly to the reader and making the abstract concrete through humor and homely examples make [Sex, Murder, and The Meaning of Life] an accessible and engaging exploration of how human behavior is connected to the behavior of our primitive ancestors.”
Richard Wrangham, Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University; author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
Kenrick's irreverent potpourri of personal anecdote, background science and catchy experiments makes evolutionary social psychology both entertaining and profound. Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life is a disturbing and fascinating read. It will make you wonder who you are.”
Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; Author of How the Mind Works, The Language Instinct, and The Stuff of Thought
Douglas Kenrick is one of the most important scientists studying the evolutionary shaping of human drives and emotions. By highlighting the author's own research, this lively book introduces readers to new evidence on how the mind works, presented in a cohesive framework.”
Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside; Author of The How of Happiness
Douglas Kenrick is a brilliant thinker, gripping speaker, and a writer whose style is so engaging, probing, and full of irreverence and wit that is unmatched by anyone I know in academia. On top of his profound mastery of the study of evolution and behavior, he has a fascinating and quirky life story that adds color and richness to his academic expertise. He is also that rare individual with whom you'd be equally likely to want to have a drink and/or seek out to obtain keen insights into human motivation and behavior (and ideally both at the same time).”
Noah Goldstein, UCLA Anderson School of Management; Author of New York Times best-selling Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
One of the Founding Fathers of modern evolutionary psychology, Doug Kenrick is also regarded as one of the most brilliant, creative, and accessible scholars in all of the social sciences. But a conventional scholar he is not: One part academic, one part comedian, and one part street fighter from Queens, Kenrick has ruffled a few feathers in his time. His crisp and witty writing, and his willingness to put scientific correctness before political correctness, will make readers think, laugh, and blush all at the same time.”
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I realize that there are some people out there who continue to insist that evolutionary psychology is bogus and consequently not their cup of tea, but I would challenge them to read Prof. Kenrick's book and find a better - more rational - theory of human nature than evolutionary psychology. I would also venture to say that Kenrick is definitely one of the better spokespersons for it. By the end of the book I was really at home with his laid-back, breezy, and humorous style of writing. I also appreciated the brevity with which he covered the topics; he covered many issues. For instance, Modularity of the Mind (Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind), the Prisoner's Dilemma (SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed), Decision Making (Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious), and our Basic Human Needs (The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice).
Lastly, as far as an answer to the Meaning of Life question, Prof. Kenrick has really hit the nail on the head when he writes, "I am not suggesting that we all ought to go forth and multiply, ignoring the problem of overpopulation, or that you rush out to make five hundred new Facebook "friends." What I am suggesting instead is that you let yourself enjoy the natural pleasures of taking care of the intimate associates you already have. You can regard time spent with family and friends as a distraction from the central task of life, or you can slow down and let your brain's social mechanisms savior the experiences." I think that's pretty sound advice. I highly recommend this book.
Here is a quick run-down of the chapters: Ch. 1 - Standing in the Gutter: How did an innocent young student accidentally fall in with a band of intellectual revolutionaries?; Ch. 2 - Why Playboy is Bad for Your Mental Mechanisms: When is beauty bad for you?; Ch. 3 - Homicidal Fantasies: Why have most of us had at least one fantasy about committing murder; Ch. 4 - Outgroup Hatred in the Blink of an Eye: Why can't we all just get along; Ch. 5 - The Mind as a Coloring Book: Why doesn't cultural variation support the blank-slate view of the mind? Ch. 6 - Subselves: The three faces of thee; Ch. 7 - Reconstructing Maslow's Pyramid: Where are the missing bricks in the classic pyramid of needs?; Ch. 8 - How the Mind Warps: Why do men and women forget different people and regret different things?; Ch. 9 - Peacocks, Porsches, and Pablo Picasso:Why do men go out of their way to avoid a Consumer Reports Best Buy?; Ch. 10 - Sex and Religion: When is godliness just another mating strategy?; Ch. 11 - Deep Rationality and Evolutionary Economics: Why are behavioral economists only half right when they say that our economic choices are irrational?; and Ch. 12 - Bad Crowds, Chaotic Attractors, and Humans as Ant: Why your parents were right about the company you keep.
He uses personal anecdotes and personal accounts of his own experiments to back it all up. As a result, I found it a little light on neuroscience and heavy on preference-based experiments of his own design that (mostly) justify his thesis. It certainly all made sense, but ultimately seemed circular and blindingly reductionist. Maybe we really are that primal and predictable, but it felt stretched thin.
And even though he cautioned the book was purposefully very personal, I found the almost memoir approach (“this is what I see out my window and here are my thoughts on being a father”) off-putting. By the end, as he was building a case for how artists may use creative output as a reproductive success strategy (to stand out from a sea of suitors), I couldn’t help think the book was little more than a tongue in cheek example of creative narcissism as ironic mate magnet.
His sub-selves theory (that the self is composed of a number of a sub-selves, each in charge of various jobs) is interesting, as is the notion of “deep rationality” – that what may seem short-sighted or even self-destructive behavior may have a deeper rationality when seen through the filter of procreative success.
It’s not a bad book, but felt somewhat simple and grounded in a far-too personal look at sexuality that was a bit disturbing at times (I got tired of reading about braless college students and free-loving hippy chicks). I was especially put off by the comparison between long-suffering evolutionary psychologists (imprisoned by outdated academic paradigms) and Nelson Mandela. Just no.
To recap: too much memoir, too much sex (not something I ever thought I'd say), not enough murder and very little meaning of life (except to have sex and raise children, and possibly grandchildren).