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Showing 1-10 of 36 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 57 reviews
on October 27, 2015
I think this is one of the first great works of the 21st century. While it does not contain any new theories it neatly and succinctly explains evolutionary psychology basics with beginner friendly examples (at least as friendly as can be for such a dense book). Having said that it is very dense and might not be the best first book on evolutionary psychology for those beginning their studies in evolutionary psychology. Chapter six is very dense and is replete with experiments that have been carried out and may not be easy to understand for beginners in psychological research. One might benefit from reading this book several times as the information becomes easier to understand with multiple readings.
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on February 20, 2015
This is one of the best and most important books of today in the field of evolutionary psychology (EP) about the new ways of looking at the human brain. It's very well written very clearly and can reach an audience far beyond the experts. Robert Kurzban, in my opinion, is one of the most prominent evolutionary psychologists and his work will remain.
The author shows us how it works our cognitive machinery in a modular perspective angle of the EP and thus helps to finish with some myths and classical visions of the brain and of individual decision-making processes. Worth a read and I strongly recommend.
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on February 13, 2014
By using a combination of facts, studies and anecdotes Robert Kurzban gives the reader an introduction of evolutionary psychology. I've only taken a 100 level college course on Psychology so I can't speak to what spectrum of the science it falls on. I did feel that the ideas were sound though and have had success using them to my advantage.

For example: Kurzban likens the brain to an iPhone and the mind to the apps that are loaded on it. You can listen to music while you browse the internet. But you can't play a game and take notes at the same time. Knowing that, it's easy for me to visualize all of my behavior as some routine being run by a part of my mind. If I feel conflicted about something maybe it's because two "apps" are trying to run at the same time. Spending money on $0.69 songs feels good in the moment but not later when I'm reviewing my checking account balance.

If this sounds interesting to you then you should read the book. Robert Kurzban is much better at explaining the reasonings behind it.
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on February 24, 2011
"I" almost didn't purchase this book - what a serious mistake that would have been! Having read The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self by Philosopher Thomas Metzinger, I felt I was thoroughly acquainted with the notion that there is no self. Also, I have read: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and How the Mind Works by Psychologist Steven Pinker (all three cited by Kurzban). Now, I don't mean to name drop, I simply say that to say this: Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite is better. Yes, better.

Kurzban states in the Prologue, "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. My argument is going to be that much, or at least some, of what makes us ignorant, mind-numbingly stupid - and hypocritical - is that we evolved to play many different kinds of strategic games with others, and our brains are built to exploit the fact that being knowledgeable, right, or morally consistent is not always to our advantage. Because humans are such social creatures, while being right is still really important, it's very far from everything. In fact, being ignorant, wrong, irrational, and hypocritical can make you much better off than being knowledgeable, correct, reasonable, and consistent."

The amount of research that Dr. Kurzban utilizes in fulfilling this aim is staggering. There are many classic examples (i.e. Muller-Lyer Illusion, "Spandrels," "Framing Effects") but, also plenty that were new on me. Also, and more importantly, I loved the presentation. Kurzban's style is wry, witty, and always entertaining. I was laughing throughout. I loved the method, the material, and the message. As a long-time fan of evolutionary psychology, this certainly is a welcome addition; Dr. Kurzban is definitely one of my new favorite authors. Also, the new information dovetailed nicely with what I read in Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio, The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human by V.S. Ramachandran, and Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions by Read Montague; I just might have to re-read some of my favorites with this new modularity view in mind. In sum, this is a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in morality, Philosophy of Mind, psychology, economics, social policy...well, everyone really. Here is one more great quote, "Modularity explains why everyone is a hypocrite. Moral(istic) modules constrain others' behavior. The mob's moral sticks can be used to prevent an arbitrarily wide set of acts. At the same time, other modules advance our own fitness interests, often by doing the very same acts our moral modules condemn. In this sense, the explanation for hypocrisy lies in the rather quotidian notion of competition. Organisms are designed to advance their own fitness interests, which entails harming others and helping oneself and one's allies. Hypocrisy is, in its most abstract sense, no different from other kinds of competition."
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on August 5, 2017
Omi gwad! This author brings a very meaningful and sensible perspective to evolutionary psychology. He adds tremendous value to an already invaluable framework of evolutionary psychology. He seems to have added the key pieces of puzzle, that explains human nature and its seeming contradictions. It is a book about science but can be a self-help book for the wisdom that it imparts. I would urge the author to take up "So what?" in his next book. Given these hard facts, I would like him to challenge the very purpose of human life and life itself? How would human animal, make meaning out of this meaningless but seemingly serious game.
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on February 23, 2017
This book has answers to questions we've been asking and will continue to ask for a long time. It views human inconsistency (including hypocrisy) as the result of our evolved mind, which consists of many distinct "modules" designed to perform specific tasks. Some modules have no knowledge of each other, others are designed to accomplish opposing tasks. According to Kurzban, this is what makes human behavior seem irrational, inconsistent, and at times unpredictable.

So, if you want to move beyond the outdated view of the human being as rational, consistent, and singular, I highly recommend this book. It will immediately change how you conceptualize yourself and the people around you.
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on August 11, 2012
The title - Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite - is a little misleading. What Kurzban is trying to do is unify a lot of behavioral theories with the modular concept of the mind.

Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite challenges assumptions about "self" and "consciousness." The modular view of the brain is introduced, with interesting analogies to computer science, and then using the modular view reviews commonly held assumptions about how the brain functions. Rather than one person simultaneously holding two contradictory believes, dualism is explain by the module view as two different modules reaching contradictory conclusions.

The modular view of the brain is simple to get, just extend the concept of brain hemispheres. It is unknown how many modules there are or which modules are connected. Modules are like apps on a phone; they contain local information and only pass certain information to other modules (some don't communicate).

Only certain modules communicate with the "consciousness" module. Rather than think of your consciousness as the part that controls you, consider your consciousness the spokesman.

So much of human life is determined by social beliefs rather than absolute fact that the human mind evolved to be "strategically wrong." The spokesperson is feed information that spins the story in the best possible light for winning mates and friends.

Sometimes it is better not to know, cases where modules not sharing information is a strategic advantage. Often it is advantageous for the consciousness (the spokesman) to be positively biased while internal modules rely on more accurate information.

There is a social price to pay for knowingly and outwardly being self-interested. But if you don't know how your behavior impacts others, you can't be accused of being self-interested.

Sometimes operating on biases information is an advantage. We tend to attribute success to our abilities and failure to chance. This self bias is detrimental in objective situations, but in subjective situations (we evolved in a subjective world) being convinced of your own abilities is beneficial. Your overconfidence can influence how others calculate the odds of your future success and longevity (the key to being a good friend or mate).

We don't have set preferences, decisions are calculated on the fly. Patient modules and impatient models. Based on context (historical - think pavolog's dog, environmental, and internal). Willpower is really just an effortmeter, it tries to determine if it is worth the effort to continue. Reset effortmeter by reward - food, praise.

Kurzban addresses morality last - here are the most unanswered questions and controversy. First Kurzban illustrates who contradictory our morals around sex and drugs are. We can't really explain why our morals, our explanations are just rationalization. What we really want to do is control other people. Different modules explain why we condemn behaviors in others, but do them ourselves (there is nothing in our brains that forces us to adopt one universal moral code). The universal disdain for hypocrisy is a evolutionary code of law - its purpose is to make others follow the rules they set for others.
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on October 22, 2014
I read this book immediately after reading Haidt's The Righteous Mind. I found Kurzban's book a vast improvement (despite preceding Haidt's book). It provides a more consistent analysis of the relevant psychological processes. It is also more methodologically consistent. Finally, where Haidt engages in a rather slapdash sampling of evolutionary psychology, which leads to most of his problems, Kurzban provides a consistent and rigorous approach to evo psy. In addition to being a great read for the purpose of its own contribution to moral psychology, Why Everyone also serves as a great general introduction to the theoretical foundations of evolutionary psychology and the modular mind. I just hate the title! The subtitle is the real title.
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VINE VOICEon January 18, 2012
If you want a single psychological/cog-sci model to understand the world...there is NOTHING written that does better than this book. I say this having read most of the other choices.

Pinker, Haidt, Seligman, Miller, Kahneman, Brooks, Gladwell, Minsky, Lyubomirsky, Damasio, Freud, Vygotsky, Hofstadter ... whatever. I liked many of their books...but this is SO much better.

This is a better book. Partly it's better because the core hypothesis and scientific underpinning is better...and partly because it's more fun to read.

Core line: It's fairly obvious to modern psychology that the notion of the unitary self is absurd, and completely unsupportable. Rather, the "self" is a collection of modules that are connected to one another in various ways, think a committee. The part of your self that is verbal and that you think of as "self" is probably best understood as the brain-committee's press secretary...but the idea that you have access to your decision-making process in 98% of all decisions you make is ROFL funny. Your brain-committee makes a decision, and your verbal press-secretary "you"-module makes up (words used advisedly, because that's really what happens) reasons after the fact.

I read the Kindle edition, where it is hard to follow the chapter endnotes..
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on June 5, 2011
This book reminds me a famous quote from Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka' but 'That's funny...'". Kuzban takes the reader on a fantastic tour and explains how the theory of modularity of mind explains lots of mysteries (such as "why do people lock their refrigerators?") related to human cognition. This is a funny book, funny in the Asimov's sense, of course, and yet it does not refrain from strongly arguing for clarification of why modularity of mind makes sense especially from the evolutionary point of view (which is the only scientific point of view when it comes understanding biology).

Sometimes the author overuses humor and asks wrong questions such as "Can you beat MS Word in chess?" (this is especially disturbing because a few sentences ago he warns the reader that questions such as "Did you stop beating your wife?" is wrong due to wrong assumptions). Nevertheless his style keeps this very important (and controversial for most of the philosophers as well as laymen) topic alive and pulsating through every page.

This book will probably one of the best references I'm going to use when it comes to the mechanisms of mind as well discussions regarding self, illusion of self and consciousness. It is written as a popular science book but it also includes enough pointers to scientific articles with more details and depth. I can assure you that your view of 'being a human and having a single, unified notion of self' will radically change (or at least you'll start to ask some questions) after this scientific gem.
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