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The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  603 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Bestselling author Michael Shermer explains how evolution shaped the modern economy—and why people are so irrational about money

How did we make the leap from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumers and traders? Why do people get so emotional and irrational about bottom-line financial and business decisions? Is the capitalist marketplace a sort of Darwinian organism, e
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Times Books
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Erika RS
May 30, 2012 Erika RS rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I do not regret reading this book, but I did not like it. It did not meet my expectations. I expected a discussion of, well, how our economic lives are shaped by biology and psychology. What I found was a standard (and compared to other books, less engaging) presentation of many common ideas from experimental psychology. Rather than a general discussion of economics and psychology, Shermer focused on a narrow point: human beings are not the rational creatures that economists assume we are. This ...more
Apr 17, 2009 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a fan of Michael Shermer, but feel this was not his best work. A lot of the information in this book is a re-telling of what he's already written, and then attempted to tie into economic theory (see The Science of Good and Evil). I don't feel he made his thesis very strongly; in fact, I was left wondering what his thesis was. Some of his conclusions about free markets were not made as strongly as they could have been, and I never felt the tie-in between personal decision making and the over ...more
Feb 19, 2009 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a somewhat strange book, as it was written by an Ayn Rand libertarian, yet focuses on the findings from behavioral economics that in my mind show the idiocy of libertarian economics. Ayn Rand thought altruism was a swear word and greed the highest moral value, yet behavioral economists confirm what all non-economists already knew--most people are indeed social animals who care about each other, frequently cooperate, and often sacrifice their own welfare to help others. The coverage of be ...more
Muhammad  Shalaby
الكتاب رائع وانا استمعته صوتي مثير للتساؤلات ومنشط للذهن الاقتصادي
يشرح الكثير من العوامل النفسية والمنطقية والعصبية خلف الاقتصاد
منحاز جدا لاقتصاد السوق وان كان هذا ليس عيبا من وجهة نظري
الأمثلة حية وواقعية ومدروسة بالتفصيل
الكتاب الصوتي بصوت المؤلف نفسه ولذلك يحمل نبرة اقتناع واقناع

يعيبه أنه يعتمد كثيرا على نظرية داروين
Jul 07, 2009 E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Evolutionary perspectives on economics

This is a lively, entertaining, useful and uneven work. Author Michael Shermer ranges over an array of disciplines to synthesize current understanding of the intersection of economics and evolution. He defines and debunks homo economicus, or the economic man, a theoretical creation who behaves in a purely rational fashion. Shermer weaves personal experiences with interviews of researchers, summaries of classic texts, and contemporary experiments and observat
This is pretty good book, once you get past the first few chapters.

I do wish Shermer would stay off of idealogical discussions. The first few chapters of the book are consumed by a near-rant about how capitalism is the bestest ever. But Shermer falls prey to a common problem in the libertarian wing of the skeptical movement, where ideology is concerned he is as guilty of cherry-picking the arguments as anyone else. It never fails to disappoint me since he is otherwise a champion of identifying
May 12, 2013 Eva rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Some notes, before I quit the book:

The banker's paradox says only the rich can get loans, but the rich aren't the ones who need them. So is friendship the same way, with people abandoned when they're down on their luck? To a degree, but insofar as a friend is reciprocally invested in helping you, he has value to you.

The average Yanomamo village has about 300 unique items, whereas the "village" of Manhattan has 10 billion--33 million times as many. - p2

Average annual income is growing at an accel
Chris Brownell
His work on cognitive biases is worth understanding, and he has a novel approach to thinking about economics. He does echoe a common theme of death to the theory of Homo Economicus. Through his attacks on the rationality assumption of humans. We make decisions for all sorts of irrational reasons, these seem to be unavoidable but hopefully they can be minimized in practice.

If you read this book there is little need to read his other title: The Believing Brain which contains a good deal of similar
Apr 21, 2016 Robert rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are some interesting things in here, but I expected a well-known skeptic to show better reasoning skills than Michael does in this book. The reasoning is especially weak when it comes time to try to tie in the psychological background with the "invisible hand" of the free-market system. Since I listened to an audio version of this book it is difficult to give specifics, but I was especially appalled when he stated a "fact", then presented the converse of the statement as a "corollary". Epi ...more
Bridget Eastgaard
What the fuck is this shit?

First, props for the grossly misleading title, because this book essentially never discusses the market. What Shermer does do is insist Ayn Rand's Objectivist ideals are the truth & the light, but while we're at it we should get on board with traditional religion too. By the way did you know Conservatives are more generous than Liberals and children are irrevocably damaged by divorce? Guns for everybody, we need them to fight the government!

Seriously though.

I have
Apr 11, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot review this book without mentioning my biases. I love Shermer as a writer and thinker, and I've yet to read something of his I disagree with.

With that out of the way, I must admit that the title and subtitle of the book aren't an accurate representation of the book as a whole. This is more an expansion of an earlier book (which he admits) than the title indicates.

Shermer's premise with this book is that the free market and capitalism are both the most natural and the freest modes of e
Rod Hilton
Jun 24, 2010 Rod Hilton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, audiobooks
The Mind of the Market analyzes the free market of capitalism in a manner like evolutionary biology. It's an interesting book, in which Michael Shermer essentially argues that the market works the way it does because of the desires and behaviors of its component parts: people.

Shermer discusses people as independent agents within the system and the ways in which the traditional model of Homo Economicus are mistaken. The book also touches on a bit of morality theory, explaining how and why people
Apr 15, 2009 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was the first title for a new book club that I did the first review for. If you are interested in keeping up with the discussion that follows, you can visit the International League of Skeptics, and the book discussion thread.

Long Story Short: This is a book about, variously, the free market, evolutionary psychology, and economic decision-making that has only one chapter devoted to the main premise of the book.

The Book’s Strengths: Shermer has written a book about economics and trade that e
Jeff Rudisel

A very fascinating and enlightening study of economics from an evolutionary vantage point.
Evolutionary economics, complexity economics, behavioral economics, neuroeconomics, and virtue economics.
Wonderful exploration of the latest science and history in all these areas.

“The best politico-economic system to date is a liberal democracy and free market capitalism, or democratic-capitalism. In a system of democratic-capitalism, social liberalism and fiscal conservatism is
Feb 11, 2009 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many a year since enjoying his Why People Believe Weird Things, I am once again picking up on Shermer’s latest thoughts. Yet this time his ideas revolve around what makes up our economic minds and lives – rather than oddball cultish thinking, or contemporary popular myths.

Shermer lets us readers know up front that he is essentially pro-capitalist – but not in the Social Darwinist sense of either “winner takes all” or “dog eat dog.” Rather, he makes it clear that capitalism is the best possible
Sep 02, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shermer's book is full of insights very familiar to anyone who's read Dan Ariely's book, Predictably Irrational. It's all about how we make economic decisions, and when Shermer is trolling the sociological and psychological literature, he's on strong ground. His basic premise is well-argued: that we evolved in a hunter-gatherer society, and now find ourselves in a consumer-based capitalist society, and so our evolution is often at odds with our current state. As a result, we do silly things with ...more
Aug 09, 2009 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is more information in the 261 pages of The Mind of the Market than there is in most books more than twice its size. That is both an advantage and a disadvantage in the sense that the book held the reader's attention even though the fecundity of ideas sometimes bordered on the overwhelming. Michael Shermer, the author of The Mind of the Market, is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine and the author of nine previous books. In this book he attempts to capture the "Mind" of the Market while argu ...more
Nicholas Moryl
An attempted synthesis of behavioral economics and biology. Works in some places, doesn't work in others. The sections about addiction and neurobiology--how our pleasure centers drive our behavior--are backed by better empirical evidence than the sections where Shermer tries move from micro (individuals) to macro (social).

I strongly agree with the criticisms prevented in this review, so I'll just link to it rather than re-typing its comments:
Jason Mahoney
May 27, 2014 Jason Mahoney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book that explains how the evolution of our brains, and the life decisions we make based on that evolution, greatly affects the way we think about money (trade, the market, investments, etc.). So many of these "decisions" are at the primal, subconscious level. It's scary to think that these automated, and in many cases outdated, modes of thinking are affecting our daily lives. Great read.
John Bailo
WinTroll alert! WinTroll alert! Sorry, I really started to get into this book, but it seems like he mentions either Microsoft or Windows or Bill Gates every five pages. What seemed to be an exploration of new science in the service of economics, has turned into an apologia for a bad operating system (and why we shouldn't try to do anything about it). The author reminds me of some of the smug commentators on Usenet to that I used to tangle with when trying to advocate Linux. I once remember a rev ...more
Shane Westfall
I wanted to like this book more, but it is just not some of Shermer's best work. It has moments of brilliance and is easy to read, yet has glaring flaws as well. For one, Shermer constantly relies on his past work to fill pages or make an argument. Many a chapter starts with 3-5 pages of the author discussing past work and then spending 2-3 pages trying to tie it to his new thesis. In many ways the book seems disjointed, as if he had a few good essays and decided to pad it out enough to crank ou ...more
May 06, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

Its certainly interesting though I do feel Michael & I will differ in value systems.
What I found mainly engaging was the MRI experiments and what they showed. This book was just a primer to engage my mind and find something more about this fascinating subject, why do we think like we do.
Vladimir Grigorov
Feb 24, 2012 Vladimir Grigorov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Интересна книга, която изследва връзкита между устройството на мозъка, емоциите и икономиката, и техния зародиш в хилядите години еволюция. Първите глави ми се сториха леко повърхностни (не и без помощта на претупаната корица), но нали пък трябва книгата да е достъпна за лаици като мен. Нататък си остава лесна за четене, докато автора излага солидната си теория върху фундаментални въпроси като какво са добродетелите, щастието, доверието, злото...

Всяка глава изобилства с много любопитни наблюдени
Jim Bouchard
Mar 08, 2015 Jim Bouchard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shermer's work is always fascinating and powerful.

Sometimes I didn't know where the author was going with this one, but taken in total this book is a wealth of information about how we think and how we make decisions.
Jan 01, 2014 Ninakix rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-2010
This book is sometimes odd because it seems to sit in the middle of three different disciplines - economics, psychology, and evolution - but that actually turns out to be a good thing, because it explains how the different disciplines tie together. A lot of the research is covered in other books, but the way he ties it together, explaining how different psychological principles probably emerged from our evolution (evolutionary psychology), but also how that effects our economic systems today - a ...more
Oct 17, 2014 Patty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed by this book. I usually love his books. This one doesn't bring anything new to light but covers ideas already out there.
Shea Mastison
May 08, 2012 Shea Mastison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Shermer is one of the best writers of popular science today. His style is highly accessible; he is knowledgeable about a wide array of sociological, psychological, and biological topics, and he is willing to examine multiples sides of any given issue.

This is an excellent book describing the morality of capitalism based upon the newest discoveries in neuroscience. But it's also a more open look at how free market principles can help us prevent war--as he references: Bastiat's Principle--
Prateek Khandelwal
Offers amazing insights on how the human brain works and how the choices we make are influenced by many hidden factors.
Sep 12, 2010 Macie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you've read books or articles by Michael Shermer or heard him talk, a lot of this book will feel very familiar. Michael Shermer loves to discuss the life of Michael Shermer (especially his time on a bike). He cites his own work repeatedly, which gets annoying when you've already read the works being referenced. But, like all of his work, it is a very easy read. He writes in a conversational style and makes complicated subjects very easy to comprehend. I'm not really certain what the primary t ...more
May 28, 2009 Even rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good review of behvhioral economics. Occassionally a bit sloppy with language (leading him to seem a bit myopic or oversimplistic) and suffers from the all too common flaw of Panglossianism that exists in behavioral sciences dealing with evolution. I was hoping for some concrete policy/philosophical implications, but it was missing. If Homo economicus is unrealistic, which Shermer aptly demonstrates, there is little in the book that would challange a system built upon the idea. The closest Sherm ...more
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Michael Brant Shermer (born September 8, 1954 in Glendale, California) is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating and debunking pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. The Skeptics Society currently has over 55,000 members.

Shermer is also the producer and co-host of t
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