*The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life*

The authors are Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson, and now it is out!

Robin reports:

On press coverage, back in July Publishers Weekly had a paragraph on it, the Boston Globe did an interview of me back then that they just released, Vice interviewed me recently so I expect that out soon, and I’m told that a Wall Street Journal review is forthcoming. Amazon now has 5 reviews, Goodreads has 7, and 2 reviews have appeared on blogs.

I am pleased to be doing a Conversation with Robin about the book, and other matters too.  But don’t forget — conversations aren’t about talking!


Just judging the book by the cover, is this just a popularization of behavioral economics?

Bonus trivia: you spend a windfall differently than hard earned money. I hope I don't blow my senile uncle's inheritance that I found under his bed (among other places; his domestic help got the lion's share I figured) here in the Philippines with my hot gf half my age...don't worry, I'm not that dumb (I think).

One can safely assume that Robin will be pleased to be doing a Conversation with Tyler about the book, too.

@clockwork_prior - are you accusing Dr. Hanson of talking his book?

It's interesting that subjects such as evolutionary psychology have taken on such significance to explain why humans behave as they do, as if humans have no free will; everything we do comes from within the deep recesses of our brains where our evolution is stored. What's reason got to do with it? Nothing, apparently. My observation is this nonsense is the contemporary version of attributing events to the pleasure or displeasure of the Gods.

Evolutionary behavioral economics.

Here is a good book to read: Vlad Griskevicius et al.: The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think.

Reason is a tool and we can go on endlessly about truly free will or post hoc rationalization of hardwired preferences. It's not as dichotomous and more complex than you are putting it.

Why wouldn't 100,000 years of biological evolution play a role in what you do and how your brain thinks? Recall how you felt and acted as a young man. Hormone secretions over which you had no control made a huge difference.

Does the book present any evidence, or does it just explain everything according to the hypothesis? Neither the Globe interview nor the blog post cite any evidence.

See the book outline at our book website for summaries of the evidence presented.

Thanks for the pointer. I suppose it would be pointless to inquire why I should read a book that asserts that all humans are driven by self deception, since the book itself must therefore be a prime example.

A Chinese scholar, and a great book reviewer, Wan Weigang is now introducing this book in a Chinese version of Blinkist right now. He is a big fan of yours and I am a big fan of his, hence yours :). Looking forward to see your opinons in the coming conversation.

Freud already wrote this book: The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901). And almost everything else Freud wrote has to do with hidden motives as well.

They acknowledge (and distinguish) Freud in the preface

For those who don't recognize irony, read my first comment. My observation is that those on the far left (or right) are much closer to those on the far right (or left) than to those in the middle. That's why one can travel west and end up in the east. That's why one who believes humans are rational can end up believing humans are prisoners of their past (genetics). Of course, for some of us, the past is a sparse landscape. If this view holds, then progress is a myth; indeed, the future, the idea of a future, is also a myth. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." Fortunately, some, like Hanson, don't (put childhood behind them).

then progress is a myth

Sir, the Whig party is that way.

You realize we pretty much just keep repeating Genesis 1 - 11?

But don’t forget — conversations aren’t about talking!

This may be the first time I laughed out loud while reading this blog :D

What a schlub. Felled by a journalist and a simple question: "Well, if my wife gets cancer don't I really love her and want her to get well and isn't that why I seek gold-plated treatment?" Hanson's answer was entirely nonresponsive, about how people don't really care about relative quality. Sounds like run-of-the-mill rational ignorance rather than status seeking.

As a psychiatrist at an academic center, it is interesting just how uninterested the clinical staff at psychiatry and psychology departments across the US are with the recent fad of behavioral economics. The research staffs at medical schools as well mainly ignore behavioral econ. If there was strong evidence for the claims of behavioral econ then presumably this would not be the case.

I bet you their private practices are quite nicely set up to benefit from the behavioral econ.

How much of "my doctor" is status quo bias?

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